Israel & Palestine

Israel says 300,000 in Gaza fled fighting as it expands military operation

Author: Editors Desk, Niha Masih and Leo Sands Source: The Washington Post
May 12, 2024 at 06:25
Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

As Israel ordered evacuations from areas in Gaza’s north and south as it expands its military operation, it said 300,000 Palestinians have fled toward the stretch of land near the sea that the military designated as a humanitarian zone.

 

Yet relief agencies say Mawasi, the small coastal area in southern Gaza where Israel has ordered civilians to flee, is ill-equipped to handle the influx. Mawasi, on the outskirts of Khan Younis, has for some time now been deemed a safe zone in the war, but has also been shelled.

 

“Forcing civilians to evacuate Rafah to unsafe zones is intolerable,” European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement. “The claim of ‘safe zones’ is false and misleading,” United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees chief Philippe Lazzarini said, adding that most people in Gaza have been forcibly displaced on average once a month.

The evacuation orders included crowded neighborhoods, a hospital, and two refugee camps in central Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians had sought shelter from fighting elsewhere in Gaza. It signaled an imminent escalation in Rafah — a move that could prompt the White House to freeze offensive weapons shipments. The orders also included Jabalya and Beit Lahia in the north.

Israel argues that it needs to operate in Rafah to eliminate the remaining Hamas battalions.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari described the Rafah operation as “precise” and “limited in scope,” saying early Sunday that Israeli forces were avoiding the city’s “densely populated areas.”

 

After sundown on Saturday, artillery fire boomed over parts of northern Gaza, which the World Food Program says is in the grips of a “full-blown famine.” Israel also said it struck targets in Jabalya in the north, where residents reported intense Israeli bombardment.

Western Rafah was “visibly emptying before our eyes,” Louise Wateridge, a spokeswoman for United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), said on X. A resident of the Al-Awda neighborhood, meters away from the evacuation zone, told The Washington Post that the streets were emptying out.

 

Here’s what to know

United States is offering Israel sensitive intelligence to help the Israeli military pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels, The Washington Post reported, according to four people familiar with the U.S. offers, to stave off a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah.

 

The backlash against university administrators in the United States is growing over their responses to the protests, The Post reported. The legislative assembly at the University of California, Los Angeles is debating a resolution of no confidence in Chancellor Gene Block, while some faculty members at Columbia University are considering a no-confidence motion against President Minouche Shafik.

Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Malmo, Sweden on Saturday. They shouted “Shame on you!” at people heading into the venue, as a police helicopters and drones circled overhead. Some critics said that Israel’s participation in the contest was inappropriate as it continues to wage war.

At least 34,971 people have been killed and 78,641 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and says 272 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operation in Gaza.

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