Residents in southern Gaza warned to evacuate amid fears of widening Israeli military operations
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis have been warned to relocate west, out of the line of fire and closer to humanitarian aid.
New reports suggest that the warning is the latest indication that the Israeli military plans to attack Hamas in southern Gaza.
Mark Regev, an aide to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Friday (local time): “We’re asking people to relocate. I know it’s not easy for many of them, but we don’t want to see civilians caught up in the crossfire.”
Such a move could compel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled south from the Israeli assault on Gaza City to relocate again, along with residents of Khan Younis with a population of more than 400,000.
Israel dropped leaflets over eastern areas of Khan Younis overnight, telling people to evacuate to shelters.
At least five Palestinians were killed in a blast at a building in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said.
Two others were injured, it said.
Witnesses said that the strike appeared to have come from a drone. There was no immediate confirmation.
The camp’s administration said an aerial strike targeted the local headquarters of the Palestinian group Fatah in the camp.
About 24,000 people live in the Balata refugee camp, in the northern West Bank, and several Palestinian armed groups operate inside, according to reports.
The strike comes a day after the Israeli army said it had killed at least seven militants in two separate confrontations in the West Bank.
Israeli troops will advance to anywhere Hamas exists, including the southern part of the Gaza Strip, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said.
It comes amid mounting concerns about Israeli plans to expand military operations in parts of the south where people have sought refuge from fighting.
Civilians in parts of south-east Gaza have been told in leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft to move into a smaller “safe zone” in the coastal town of Mawasi, which covers just 14 sq km, prompting warnings from the heads of 18 UN agencies and international aid groups.
Israel’s national security adviser has said the country’s war cabinet had agreed to allow two tanker trucks of fuel to enter the Gaza Strip each day, a quantity he described as “very minimal”.
Tzachi Hanegbi said the fuel would be allowed for Gaza’s communications system and water and sewage services.
An Israeli official later said there would be “no limitation” on aid requested for Gaza by the UN, an apparent concession to international pressure and warnings that its iron grip on the war-torn Palestinian territory will lead to starvation and disease.
The amount of water available to people trapped in Gaza will still be just 17% of levels before Israel’s siege on the Palestinian enclave, Oxfam said, after Israel’s government announced that two trucks of fuel will be allowed into Gaza each day.
More than 344m litres of total water were available in Gaza via groundwater wells and pipelines before the siege, the charity said. Currently, only 58m litres – less than a fifth – is available.
The bare minimum international standard in an emergency is 15 litres per person, per day. People are already having to survive on rationing between 1-3 litres a day for all water use and are resorting to drinking sea and untreated water.
It said current fuel levels have made water treatment, pumping and distribution “virtually impossible”, and warned that gastroenteritis and dehydration are spreading and the risk of water borne disease is rife.
An Oxfam member of staff in Gaza said: “The water is disgusting, most people are having to drink brackish water from wells. There is no electricity, so we have to fill buckets and carry up to the roof tank. Our whole family are sick with diarrhoea.”
In other news in brief:
• Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it tried to evacuate some of its staff and their families trapped inside the organisation’s facilities near al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Since last Saturday, MSF staff and families -- 137 people, 65 of them children – were not able to go outside because of fighting, it said.
• Gaza’s main telecommunications companies Paltel and Jawwal confirmed the “partial restoration” of telecom services in various parts of Gaza. The partial restoration comes after a limited quantity of fuel was provided through the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), they said.
• A UN human rights official urged Israel to stop using water as a “weapon of war” and allow clean water and fuel into Gaza to restart the water supply network. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN special rapporteur on water and sanitation, reminded Israel that consciously preventing supplies of safe water from entering Gaza “violates both international humanitarian and human rights law”. The UN has warned that Gaza’s civilians face the “immediate possibility” of starvation, and that overcrowding and lack of clean water are speeding the spread of diseases as winter approaches.
• Israeli security forces mounted a major hours-long raid in the city of Jenin beginning on Thursday night, destroying roads and killing between three and five Hamas militants. Hamas said three of its fighters had died in the raid. Israeli military officials said their forces had killed at least five militants.
• An Israeli police investigation into the Hamas attacks at a music festival on October 7 updated the death toll to 364, according to Israeli media reports. Earlier counts had placed the death count from the attack at Supernova music festival in Kibbutz Re’im at 270.
• The Israeli military said it has retrieved the body of a soldier, Noa Marciano, who had been held captive by Hamas in a building near Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital. It comes after the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said they had found the body of Yehudit Weiss, one of about 240 hostages taken on October 7, in a building near the hospital.
• Bahrain’s crown prince says a “hostage trade” between Hamas and Israel could achieve a break in hostilities he believes might end the conflict in Gaza. Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa also said security in the region would not realised without a two-state solution, in which he described the US as “indispensable” in achieving.
• Five countries have submitted a referral to the international criminal court (ICC) for an investigation of “the situation in the state of Palestine”, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said. Khan confirmed his office was investigating the situation in Palestine which began in March 2021.
• The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will meet next week with relatives of hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza. The pope will separately meet with a delegation of Palestinians with family members in Gaza, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said.