Israeli forces on Oct. 18 urged residents in northern Gaza to evacuate to the town of Al-Mawasi in southern Gaza, claiming the latter area is now a “humanitarian area.”
In an evacuation advisory, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it “continues to call on the residents of the northern Gaza Strip and Gaza City to evacuate towards the area of Al-Mawasi, south of Wadi Gaza” where international humanitarian aid “will be provided as needed.”
“The IDF recommends evacuating to the open areas in western Khan Yunis, in the area of Al-Mawasi,” officials said.
Israel has been calling on civilians in northern Gaza to move south in recent days as it ramps up its airstrikes on the northern and central Gaza Strip amid its ongoing conflict with the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, following its Oct. 7 surprise attack on the south of the country as residents celebrated the Jewish Sabbath.
It was not clear if the announcement regarding the alleged humanitarian zone means that Israel has now agreed to allow aid from Egypt into Gaza specifically through the Rafah crossing in northern Sinai, which is the only crossing in and out of the densely populated area that is not controlled by Israel.
Israeli officials had no immediate response when questioned on Wednesday as to whether or not aid was being allowed into Gaza, and, if so, where and when.
However, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he had spoken with Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El Sisi who he said had agreed to open the Rafah border crossing to allow in 20 lorries with humanitarian aid. The president said officials would first need to fix the roads and fill in potholes so trucks carrying aid could get through, which he said could take up to eight hours.
‘Very Blunt Negotiation’
“This has been a very blunt negotiation I’ve had,” President Biden said. “We want to get as many of the trucks out as possible. There’s, I guess, 150 or something there. Not all of them will go the first tranche. If there’s a second tranche—see how it goes.”
President Biden also said that Israel had approved the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt after pressure from the U.S. and other nations but stressed the deliveries would need to be inspected before it arrives to ensure it does not go to Hamas.
“The U.N. is going to be on the other side distributing this material—offloading it and then distributing it, which is going to take a little time to set up, probably,” President Biden said.
“But … if Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end, because we’re not going to be sending any humanitarian aid to Hamas if they’re going to be confiscating it. That’s the commitment that I’ve made,” he added.
The majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been dependent on outside aid for years.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, President Biden announced the United States is providing $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel ‘Will Not Prevent Humanitarian Assistance From Egypt’
President Biden said the funding will help support over a million displaced by the conflict with clean water, food, hygiene support, medical care, and other essential needs.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday that it had agreed to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza “in light of the sweeping and vital American support for the war effort” but also stressed it would not allow any humanitarian assistance from its own territory to the Gaza Strip as long as hostages are not returned.
Roughly 200 Israeli hostages are reportedly being held by Hamas.
“In light of President Biden’s request, Israel will not prevent humanitarian assistance from Egypt as long as it is only food, water and medicine for the civilian population located in the southern Gaza Strip or which is evacuating to there, and as long as these supplies do not reach Hamas. Any supplies that reach Hamas—will be prevented,” his office said.
An estimated 4,361 are believed to have been killed since the Israel–Hamas conflict began earlier this month, the majority of which are women and children, according to the United Nations, although that figure does not include the hundreds that are claimed to have died in a blast in Gaza City’s Ahli Arab Hospital on Tuesday night.
Reuters contributed to this report.