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UN says Israel army orders Gazans to leave shelter hit by tank fire

By AFP - Jan 25,2024 - Last updated at Jan 25,2024

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories — The United Nations told AFP on Thursday that the Israeli forces ordered people taking refuge in their shelter hit with deadly tank fire in southern Gaza's Khan Yunis to leave by the following afternoon.

A spokeswoman for UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees, confirmed testimony from displaced people in the shelter who said the army gave them until 5:00pm (1500GMT) on Friday to flee.

"The army called the UNRWA official through the loudspeaker, she went over to them next to the tanks, and they told her to notify us to vacate the premises by 5:00pm tomorrow," said Amal Lubbad, a displaced Gazan at the facility.

"We don't know where we'll go."

As fighting intensifies in Khan Yunis, the Israeli military has taken to social media to publish evacuation orders covering swathes of the city where internet connectivity is limited.

"No specific evacuation request was communicated to UNRWA or those staying in its [the shelter's] vicinity," the military told AFP.

Twelve people were killed on Wednesday when two tank shells struck the shelter, where thousands had taken refuge, UNRWA said.

"Over 75 injuries, 15 of whom are in a critical condition," Thomas White, the agency's Gaza director, said in a statement.

The majority of Gaza's population, 1.7 million out of 2.4 million, have been forced from their homes with vast numbers cramming into UN shelters.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said Wednesday's bombardment was a "blatant disregard of basic rules of war".

The compound had been clearly marked as a UN facility and its coordinates shared with Israeli authorities, he said on X, formerly Twitter.

Asked about the tank fire, Israeli forces said "a thorough review of the operations of the forces in the vicinity is under way", adding it was examining the possibility that the strike was a "result of Hamas fire".

The Israeli army is the only force known to have tanks operating in the Gaza Strip.

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