Israel’s military on October 13 called for all civilians of Gaza City, more than 1 million people, to relocate south within 24 hours, as it amassed tanks near the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground invasion.
“Now is a time for war,” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday as Israeli warplanes continued pounding Gaza in retaliation for the deadliest attack by Palestinian militants in its history.
The Israeli military said it would operate “significantly” in Gaza City in the coming days and civilians would only be able to return when another announcement was made.
The United Nations said it considered it impossible for such a movement to take place “without devastating humanitarian consequences.”
“The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan described the U.N.’s response to Israel’s early warning to the residents of Gaza as “shameful”.
A Hamas official said the Gaza relocation warning was “fake propaganda” and urged citizens not to fall for it.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas militant group which led the attacks on Saturday, but a ground invasion of Gaza poses serious risk with Hamas holding scores of hostages kidnapped in the assault.
Public broadcaster Kan said the Israeli death toll had risen to more than 1,300. Gaza authorities said more than 1,500 Palestinians had been killed.
Israel has put Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, under siege.
(Inputs from Reuters)