Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled to the south of the Gaza Strip since the start of the war. But now it appears that Israel will soon move the battle to that area.
The UN estimates that around 400,000 Palestinians have fled south since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip. Under pressure from heavy bombardments, they responded to a call from the Israeli army to leave the north.
But on Thursday, Israel dropped leaflets from the air over the southern city of Khan Younis, calling on people to flee the city towards the west. Shortly afterwards a heavy bombardment followed.
An airstrike on Khan Younis killed several people, including many children, on Friday night, the Palestinian news agency said. WAFA. Medical workers speak of 32 deaths.
A house west of Khan Younis, where residents were expected to flee, was hit in an airstrike on Saturday. Fifteen people were reportedly killed, health officials at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis said.
The center of gravity of violence will shift south
An Israeli army spokesman announced on Friday that the focus of military operations in the Gaza Strip will soon shift to the south. “We are determined to continue our operation. It will happen wherever Hamas exists, including in the south of the Gaza Strip,” said Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari.
Hagari seemed to echo the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu told Israeli troops near the border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday that “there is no place in Gaza that we will not go to. The Hamas killers will not be able to hide, hide or flee,” news agency reports AP.
No specific time frame for the operation was given. However, the 400,000 residents of Khan Younis and those who have fled from the north to the southern city fear that this will not last long.
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More civilian casualties expected
According to a senior US administration official, the Israeli military operation in the south is likely to place more emphasis on ground forces and less on airstrikes because it is so densely populated. This is reported by the news agency Reuters.
Giora Eiland, former army general and head of Israel’s National Security Council, told the news agency Reuters that a ground attack in the south of the Gaza Strip could take three to four weeks. He calls the fact that most people are now in the south of the Gaza Strip a “challenging situation”. The fact that this will probably result in more civilian casualties will not deter Israel, he predicts.
“They asked us, the people of Gaza, to go south. We did that. And now they are asking us to leave again. Where should we go?” Atya Abu Jab, who fled south from Gaza City with his family, told the news agency Reuters.
According to the health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, more than 12,000 Gazans have already been killed.
More towards the border with Egypt
Gazans who heed Israel’s latest call to head southwest will find themselves further from the line of fire and closer to humanitarian aid, according to the Israeli army. It is also more towards the Egyptian border. Only through the Rafah border crossing can humanitarian aid enter the Gaza Strip and foreigners and Palestinian injured people can leave the Gaza Strip.
Although Egypt is committed to providing humanitarian aid to Gazans, the country refuses to open the border to Palestinian refugees. Egypt fears that this would contribute to the forced displacement of Gazans. The country is also afraid that this will move the Israeli fight against Hamas to the Sinai desert.