The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released videos in Arabic on social media platforms advising Gaza residents on evacuation procedures as the military retaliates against Hamas’s recent actions.
Following Hamas’s aggressive operations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Saturday, urged Gaza inhabitants to evacuate, hinting at an imminent Israeli offensive.
However, for Gazans, exiting the region is not straightforward. Since 2007, when Hamas took control, the Gaza Strip has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt. Israel states this measure is essential to restrict Hamas from stockpiling weapons. This blockade severely curtails civilian movement outside the territory. One exit used to be the Erez Crossing into Israel, primarily for those with special permissions. Sadly, this crossing was destroyed by Hamas on Saturday. Another exit is the Rafah Crossing to Egypt, but even during peaceful times, acquiring the required travel documents from the Hamas government can be lengthy and challenging.
Speaking anonymously, a Gaza inhabitant told The Times of Israel that Hamas’s sudden aggression took the civilian population by surprise. She highlighted that in the dire circumstances, schools operated by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, are seen as the only safe havens. The deteriorating conditions, compounded by lack of electricity at night, are intensifying fears among civilians.
In the IDF videos shared on Sunday, a spokesperson stated that the IDF doesn’t intend to harm civilians but is acting in response to the terrorist activities. Maps of specific Gaza neighborhoods were displayed, providing residents with evacuation routes.
Residents from various regions were guided towards central safer locations such as Gaza City’s center, inside Khan Younis, and Rafah city near the Egyptian border.
On a related note, UNRWA reported on Sunday that over 73,000 individuals have sought refuge in 64 of its schools across Gaza. The agency is providing these families with shelter, clean water, and is gearing up to distribute food, hygiene kits, and cleaning essentials. Alarmingly, one of these UNRWA schools, housing 225 people, was directly struck on Sunday, resulting in damages, but no casualties.