On Saturday, thousands of Palestinians fled Gaza after Israel warned them to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground offensive against Hamas, one week after the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.
The Islamist group’s fighters gunned, murdered, stabbed, and burned over 1,300 people in an act Israel likened to 9/11 in the United States, triggering a large retaliatory air campaign against Hamas that has killed over 2,200 people in Gaza.
The fate of Palestinian citizens in blockaded and besieged Gaza—one of the world’s most densely populated territories, home to 2.4 million people—has grown increasingly concerned if it becomes the site of intensive urban conflict and house-to-house fighting.
“The situation in Gaza has reached a dangerous new low,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Even wars have rules,” he added, stressing that “civilians must be protected and also never used as shields”.
Israel has massed ground soldiers and tanks surrounding Gaza, dropped leaflets in the north of the enclave warning residents to escape, and performed “localized” raids “to cleanse the area of terrorists and weaponry,” according to the army.
The missions also tried to discover “missing persons” within Gaza, according to the IDF, since Hamas has been holding approximately 150 captives whose families have watched the intensifying conflict with increasing horror.
Israel has carried out dozens of strikes on Gaza targets in the last week, killing at least 2,215 Gazans, including 724 children, according to the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry.
“We wake up to the killing and death under the bombs,” said Mohamed Abu Ali, a resident of the territory. “We don’t know where to go or where to be safe. We have no food, water, or electricity.”