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Israel orders 1M in Gaza to evacuate ahead of possible ground operation

Israel on Friday ordered 1 million people in Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours, ahead of a possible ground operation.

“The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians of Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza,” the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The United Nations warned that trying to move the large number of people with a 24-hour deadline would be disastrous.

Jeremy Konyndyk, president of Refugees International, also said on X that such an order does not “absolve Israel of its responsibility to protect civilians under the laws of war.”

“If [President Biden] meant what he said the other day about democracies following the rule of law, the US had better be urgently engaging the Israelis *now*,” Konyndyk added.

Panic reportedly spread amongst civilians and aid workers in Gaza in the wake of the Israeli order. The densely populated territory was already dealing with Israeli airstrikes and a blackout.

Since fighting began after Hamas attacked Israel on Saturday, over 2,800 people on both sides have died. About 150 people were taken into Gaza by militants as hostages. Israel has said it will not allow supplies into the territory until the hostages are freed. 

“Hamas terrorists are hiding in Gaza City inside tunnels underneath houses and inside buildings populated with innocent Gazan civilians,” the IDF continued in its X post on Friday. “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,” officials added. 

Israel and Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militant group, have also exchanged fire in recent days and raised anxieties about a more widespread conflict.

The Associated Press contributed. 

–Updated at 7:45 a.m.

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