Israel’s military early Friday called for all Gaza City civilians—more than 1 million people—to relocate to the enclave’s southern regions within the next 24 hours.
It comes as the United Nations disclosed early Friday morning that it had received communication from the Israeli military and the Israeli Ministry of Defense to instruct the Palestinians in northern Gaza to relocate south.
A translation of the announcement that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had “sent to civilians of Gaza City” reads, “The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians of Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza, as shown on the map.”
“The Hamas terrorist organization waged a war against the State of Israel and Gaza City is an area where military operations take place. This evacuation is for your own safety,” the statement continues. “You will be able to return to Gaza City only when another announcement permitting it is made. Do not approach the area of the security fence with the State of Israel.”
“Hamas terrorists are hiding in Gaza City inside tunnels underneath houses and inside buildings populated with innocent Gazan civilians.
“Civilians of Gaza City, evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields.
“In the following days, the IDF will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians.”
Earlier Friday morning, U.N. officials in Gaza were informed by their liaison officers in the Israeli military that “the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement, reported Reuters and Axios.
Mr. Dujarric underscored the humanitarian implications of this directive, noting that the region is home to around 1.1 million people. He noted that the order applies to those sheltered in U.N. facilities, including schools, health centers, and clinics.
“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” Mr. Dujarric said.
“The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded, avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,” he added.
The U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
Israel Targeting Hamas Tunnels
The Israeli military has been targeting the vast underground network of tunnels in Gaza utilized by the Hamas terror group to carry out its attacks on Israel, according to the IDF.
IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said in a military operations update Friday morning that the Israeli military’s intention “is to take all of Hamas’s military capabilities and strip them away.”
“Our intention is that Hamas will no longer have any ability to strike, harm, kill any Israeli civilians,” he said.
He pointed out in a Thursday military operations update that the Gaza Strip is “one of the densest populated areas in the world.”
It runs about 25 miles (40.2 kilometers) from one end to the other, with the widest location being nine miles (14.4 kilometers) across and narrowest location less than six miles (9.65 kilometers).
In the nearly two decades since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, they have primarily focused on constructing an extensive network of tunnels. These tunnels originate under Gaza City, a central hub of their infrastructure, and extend throughout various regions within the strip.
Mr. Conricus described the Gaza Strip as being analogous to having one layer designed for the civilian population and another concealed layer built exclusively by Hamas for its own purposes.
“And what we’re doing now is that we are trying to get to that second layer that Hamas has built—by the way, only for itself, not to be accessed by the civilians,” he said.
Gazans cannot access the tunnels as bunkers for safety. Instead, they are used primarily by Hamas to fire rockets at Israel, plan terror operations, and launch terrorists into Israel, Mr. Conricus said.
The focus on Israeli strikes has been on Hamas senior officials and commanders, he said. Besides senior officials, the strikes are targeting infrastructure such as financial, construction, command and control, intelligence, research, and development, Mr. Conricus added.
The Israeli Air Force has been striking targets in various neighborhoods of the Gaza Strip that had “lots of cameras, infrastructure, and other facilities.”
Mr. Conricus clarified that “the neighborhood wasn’t targeted, but specific military targets inside were targeted, and many of them were struck.”
Death Toll Update
At least 2,800 lives on both sides of the border have been taken since the Hamas terrorist group’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
The Israeli military said early Friday that more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, have been killed in Israel, and more than 3,000 have been injured.
Meanwhile, Gaza’s Hamas-backed health ministry reported late Thursday that 1,500 have been killed in Gaza, with over 6,600 injured, owing to Israeli precision airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza in response to Hamas’s attack. Israel has estimated that hundreds of Hamas terrorists are among the deaths in Gaza.
Separately, the IDF previously reported on Oct. 10 that at least 1,500 bodies of Hamas terrorists lie dead in Israel, killed while fighting with Israelis and their soldiers since the start of the war.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.