Mahmud Hams Agence France-Presse The Israeli army called Friday morning for “the evacuation of all civilians in Gaza City from their homes to the south, for their own safety.” Many decided to act accordingly.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Amit Meyer – Agence France-Presse in Gaza
- Middle East
Several thousand Palestinians fled Friday through the devastated streets of Gaza City, hoping to find refuge in the south of the territory after an appeal to civilians launched by Israel, which is preparing for a ground offensive in retaliation for the bloody attack launched by Hamas.
The Israeli army announced that it had carried out ground incursions “in the last 24 hours” in Gaza, on the seventh day of the war sparked on October 7 by the attack of a unprecedented scale of the Palestinian Islamist movement, which has already left thousands dead. Hamas holds 150 hostages whom it threatens to execute.
At least 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians, have been killed since the attack, which has traumatized Israel where it has been compared to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Nearly 1,900 Palestinians, including 614 children, among whom many civilians, according to local authorities, died in the Gaza Strip, a small, poor territory, under siege, relentlessly shelled by Israeli strikes launched in response.
Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, which took power in 2007 in the Gaza Strip, announced Friday that 13 hostages, “including foreigners,” had been killed in Israeli strikes .
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The Islamist group, which Israel has sworn to “annihilate,” had already announced that four hostages had been killed in the bombings. This situation makes any land offensive even more complicated, a terrifying prospect of fighting in the heart of a city with an extremely dense population, with a basement dotted with underground passages.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, visiting Jerusalem on Friday, said Hamas was using the population as a “shield.”
At dawn on October 7, in the middle of Shabbat, the weekly Jewish rest, and on the last day of the Sukkot holiday, hundreds of Hamas fighters had infiltrated Israel in vehicles, by air and sea, from the Gaza Strip.
In the streets, in houses, even bursting into a music festival, they killed more than a thousand civilians, sowing terror under a deluge of rockets during this attack of unprecedented scale and violence. since the creation of Israel in 1948.
Hamas has kidnapped several dozen Israeli hostages, foreign and binational, of all ages. Israeli authorities identify 150 hostages, while hundreds of people are still missing and bodies are being identified.
Among these hostages are young people captured during a music festival where Palestinian fighters broke into, killing 270 people according to authorities.
After the attack, the Israeli army claimed to have recovered the body of 1500 Palestinian fighters.
Israel responded by declaring war to destroy Hamas, shelling the Gaza Strip and deploying tens of thousands of troops around the territory in the south of the country and on its northern border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire are ongoing. frequent between the army and pro-Iranian Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas.
On Friday, several journalists, including two from the AFP, were injured during a bombing in this sector, the target of shells Israelis according to Lebanese security sources.
Hezbollah is “fully prepared” to intervene against Israel in due time, assured Friday the number two of this formation, Sheikh Naïm Qassem, before a demonstration of his supporters in Beirut.
Flee, by all means
On Friday morning, hundreds of rockets were again fired from Gaza towards Israeli territory, according to an AFP journalist.
The Israeli army called on all civilians in Gaza City to “ evacuate their homes to the south, for their own safety.”
By thousands, carrying their backpacks, they fled by all means, on foot, piled up on trailers, on carts, on motorcycles, by car, through streets strewn with rubble, lined with ruined buildings.
Floods of civilians have left the north of this 362 square kilometer territory to try to find refuge in the south of the Gaza Strip, subject to an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since Hamas took over there. power in 2007 and of which Egypt controls the only opening to the world, the Rafah crossing point.
In the city, leaflets in Arabic, dropped by Israeli drones, call on residents to leave their homes “immediately.” Hamas rejected the call to evacuate.
This cramped territory where 2.4 million Palestinians are crowded is now deprived of water, electricity and food supplies, cut off by Israel.< /p>
Tension is also high in the West Bank, another Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, where at least nine Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces during rallies in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. .
In the Gaza Strip, the din of explosions, drones and other blasts is incessant. The Israeli army said it targeted 750 “military targets” overnight as “massive strikes” hit the large Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, according to AFP journalists.
“How long will we live under bombs with death everywhere? “, told AFP Oum Hossam, 29, who is seeking refuge with his four children after the destruction of his house.
Other residents refuse to leave, for lack of means or because they cannot give in: “The enemy wants to terrorize us and force us into exile, but we will resist,” says Abou Azzam.
The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken, who was in Qatar on Friday after a support visit to Israel on Thursday, called on countries in the region to take “all possible precautions” to avoid civilian deaths in Gaza.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, visiting Tel Aviv on Friday, said Hamas fighters had taken “evil to another level” than the jihadists of the Islamic State group.
“Europe stands alongside Israel,” European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen also said on Friday.
The call to evacuate, which affects around 1.1 million residents of the northern Gaza Strip, almost half of its population, is raising concerns. Such an evacuation would have “devastating humanitarian consequences,” warned the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric.
King Abdullah II of Jordan also warned against “any attempt to displace Palestinians”, stressing that the conflict “should not spread to neighboring countries.”
More than 423,000 Palestinians have already had to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip to flee the bombings, according to the UN, which launched an emergency appeal for donations.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas likened such a “move” to a “second Nakba” (“Catastrophe”, in Arabic) , the name given to the flight of some 760,000 Palestinians at the creation of the State of Israel.
Thousands of people demonstrated Friday in Iraq, Iran, Jordan and Bahrain in support to the Palestinians.
The UN Security Council is due to meet on Friday to address the situation in Gaza.