The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have issued an appeal to Gaza Strip residents urging civilians to evacuate to the south for their own safety and warning them that the army will carry on with their strikes against the Hamas terrorist group.
Quote from IDF: "The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians of Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection.
The Hamas terrorist organisation waged a war against the State of Israel, and Gaza City is an area where military operations take place. This evacuation is for your own safety.
You will be able to return to Gaza City only when another announcement permitting you to do so is made. Do not approach the area of the security fence with the State of Israel."
Details: The IDF emphasises that Hamas militants are hiding in the city of Gaza in tunnels under buildings and in houses occupied by innocent Gazan civilians.
"Civilians of Gaza City, evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields. In the following days, the IDF will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians."
Details: The Times of Israel, citing a military official, reported that although the IDF warning was explicitly addressed to the city of Gaza, it applies to all areas in northern Gaza.
The media reported that the Israel Defence Forces issued such a statement on 12 October and called on civilians to evacuate within 24 hours.
The Reuters report, which was confirmed by military sources, said the call emerged ahead of an expected ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem Post sources previously reported that the operation might be launched on 14 October or later.
UN representatives in Gaza said they had also received a notice advising of an evacuation within 24 hours, but since it would involve displacing around 1.1 million people, they believe it is "impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences".
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary General, stated that the UN "strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation".
Dujarric noted that the Israeli military's order also applies to all UN personnel and those on UN premises, including schools, medical centres and clinics.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said it has moved its central operations centre and international staff to southern Gaza to further pursue its humanitarian operations and support its staff and Palestinian refugees.
The organisation urged the Israeli authorities to protect all civilians in UNRWA shelters, including schools.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Hamas urged Gazans not to leave their homes after the IDF warned civilians to evacuate, CNN reported.
The Islamist group sent out a statement to the media accusing Israel of waging psychological warfare and propaganda to create confusion among citizens and undermine the stability of their home front.
Hamas is trying to convince the population that the staff of international institutions are supposedly staying at their workplaces and not evacuating.
The Israel Defence Forces also reported that they had carried out airstrikes overnight against about 750 targets belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
The targets included 12 high-rise towers, which, according to the IDF, contain Hamas facilities.
The Israeli military added that they had also struck three Hamas militants responsible for recent mortar attacks on Israel.
Other targets include tunnels, military assets, residences of senior members of the group used as military command centres, weapons storage points and communications rooms, the IDF said.
Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces, stressed that the military does not intend to harm Palestinian civilians.
"Hamas carried out one of the most horrific acts the world has seen, we are carrying out an effort to evacuate residents in order to deepen the damage, to collapse this organisation," Hagari stated.
Details: The official added that a handful of clashes had broken out between Israeli troops and terrorists along the Gaza border fence over the past 24 hours, with only a few incidents on Israeli territory.
Hagari also said the IDF is still focusing its efforts on taking out high-ranking Hamas members.