Israeli Army Orders Evacuation Of Battle-Torn Gaza City


(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territories: Israel's army dropped thousands of leaflets over war-torn Gaza City on Wednesday urging all residents to flee a heavy offensive through the main city of the besieged Palestinian territory.

The leaflets, addressed to "everyone in Gaza City", set out designated escape routes and warned that the urban area -- where UN humanitarian agency OCHA said up to 350,000 people were staying -- would "remain a dangerous combat zone".

The warning came as Israeli troops, backed by tanks and aircraft, have fought Hamas and militants in the heaviest combat the city has seen in months amid the war raging since October 7.

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The United Nations said the latest evacuations "will only fuel mass suffering for Palestinian families, many of whom have been displaced many times".

"The civilians must be protected," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

An Israeli government spokesman said the aim was "to put civilians out of harm's way" as troops battle militants "where they are".

One woman carrying her scant belongings through the ruins, Umm Nimr al-Jamal, told AFP on Tuesday that "this is the 12th time" her family has had to flee.

"How many times can we endure this? A thousand times? Where will we end up?"

The upsurge in fighting, bombardment and displacement came as talks were to resume in Qatar towards a truce and hostage release deal in the war now grinding on into its 10th month.

Hamas official Hossam Badran, asked about the increased military operations, told AFP that Israel was "hoping that the resistance will relinquish its legitimate demands" in truce negotiations.

Heavy fighting also raged in Gaza's far-southern Rafah, where witnesses told AFP that Israeli tanks had rumbled into the city centre and unleashed intense fire on buildings.

'Unacceptable'

Across Gaza, deadly strikes have hit four schools used as shelters in four days, killing at least 49 people according to medics and officials in the Hamas-run territory, and sparking rebukes from France and Germany.

"It is unacceptable that schools, especially those housing civilians displaced by the fighting, should be targeted," said the French foreign ministry, urging an investigation.

Israel said the strikes had targeted militants hiding in schools.

The Israeli military concluded its operation in Gaza City's eastern district of Shujaiya, where major battles had raged since an Israeli evacuation order on June 27.

A spokesman for Gaza's civil defence agency said there was widespread "destruction".

Shujaiya has become a "ghost city", said Mahmud Bassal.

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The Peninsula

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