Israel’s military orders civilians to evacuate Gaza

Israel’s military orders Palestinian civilians to evacuate Gaza and relocate to the south of the territory within 24 hours sending panic through civilians and aid workers already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade.

The directive came on the heels of what the United Nations said was a warning they received from Israel to evacuate 1.1 million people living in the north of Gaza within 24 hours.

The Israeli military order, which comes on the seventh day of a war declared by Israel following an unprecedented Hamas incursion and deadly attack, directs residents of Gaza City to flee deeper south into the Gaza Strip, a narrow coastal territory. Israel’s directive charged that Hamas militants were hiding in tunnels under the city.

“This is chaos, no one understands what to do,” said Inas Hamdan, an officer at the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza City while she grabbed whatever she could throw into her bags as the panicked shouts of her relatives could be heard around her. She said all the U.N. staff in Gaza City and northern Gaza had been told to evacuate south to Rafah.

“This evacuation is for your own safety,” the Israeli military said, in a warning it said was sent to Gaza City civilians.

The flurry of directives could signal an impending ground offensive, though the Israeli military has not yet confirmed such an appeal. On Thursday it said that while it was preparing, no decision has been made.

Israel delivered an even broader evacuation order — giving almost half of tiny Gaza’s population 24 hours to flee to the territory’s south — to the U.N., spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. The Israeli military did not immediately confirm the broader evacuation order.