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Israel expands east Rafah, north Gaza evacuation order

By AFP - May 12,2024 - Last updated at May 12,2024

A man, woman, and children ride in the back of a tricycle loaded with belongings and other items as they flee bound for Khan Yunis, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday amid the ongoing Israeli offensive against the Palestinian territory (AFP photo)

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories — The Israeli military on Saturday ordered Palestinians to leave more areas of eastern Rafah and the northern Gaza Strip as it pressed ahead with its fight against Hamas fighters.

The latest evacuation order, which some residents told AFP they had received via text and audio messages to their phones, comes days after Israeli tanks and troops entered Rafah, the Palestinian territory's southernmost city, and seized a key crossing on the Egyptian border.

Gazans were told to leave parts of Rafah's Shabura refugee camp, the Jenina and Khirbet Al Adas neighbourhoods and other areas, and to move to a designated humanitarian area in Al Mawasi on the coast.

Aid groups and UN officials have warned the area is already overcrowded and not ready to receive an influx of people.

"We're extremely concerned these evacuation orders have come both towards central Rafah and Jabalia," the UN agency for supporting Palestinians, UNRWA, said on social media platform X.

Israeli forces spokesman Avichay Adraee posted the order in Arabic on X, saying these areas had "witnessed Hamas terrorist activities in recent days and weeks".

Images on social media showed leaflets with the latest order, which the army said in a statement it had distributed in the affected areas.

Suhaib Al Hams, a hospital director in Rafah, said in a video message to journalists that "sadly, the Kuwait Speciality Hospital is now included in the places threatened with evacuation".

“There is no other place for patients and injured people to go to but this hospital,” Hams said, urging “immediate international protection” for the medical facility.

The Israeli army on Monday issued its first evacuation order for parts of eastern Rafah, saying it was in preparation for a widely anticipated ground assault.

In a separate statement the military said about 300,000 people had left eastern Rafah for Al Mawasi since it ordered the evacuation.

UNRWA, in its post on X, said the expansion in the new evacuation orders affect another 300,000 people in southern and northern areas of Gaza.

Israel has repeatedly vowed to send ground troops into Rafah, where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have sought shelter, saying it wants to target four Hamas battalions in the city.

Adraee said evacuation orders were also issued to Palestinians in northern Gaza’s Jabalia and Beit Lahia, areas that saw intense fighting in the early stages of the seven-month war.

“You are in a dangerous combat zone,” Adraee said.

Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted Jabalia and Beit Lahia, as well as other parts of northern Gaza, since the army launched its ground operation in the besieged territory on October 27.

Israel began its Gaza military campaign after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

The Israeli offensive has killed at least 34,943 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

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