Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on a city in the southern half of the Gaza Strip instructing Palestinians to flee the area. The evacuation notice suggests that Tel Aviv plans to ramp up its military operation in south Gaza. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed a ground invasion of the area would happen at some point.
In the first days of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, it instructed Palestinians to flee to the southern half of the besieged enclave. At the time, human rights groups warned the forced displacement of the million people who live in the northern half of Gaza would create a humanitarian crisis. The Norwegian Refugee Council slammed Tel Aviv, calling the evacuation order a “war crime of forcible transfer.”
As Israel’s onslaught in Gaza concludes its sixth week, the northern half of the strip has been decimated. While south Gaza has been bombed, Israel’s main ground operations have been limited to the north.
The UN estimates that of the 2.3 million people living in Gaza, 1.5 million have been displaced. Around half of the population of the strip are children. Over 11,000 Palestinians have already been killed, including 4,500 children. Tel Aviv says 50 Israeli soldiers have been killed during ground operations inside of Gaza.
Now, Tel Aviv appears ready to turn the focus of its military to the south. The Israeli air force dropped leaflets on Wednesday night in eastern areas of Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza, ordering people to leave their homes and shelters “for their own safety.”
The leaflets suggest an invasion of south Gaza will begin soon. Gallant said the ground operation will eventually “include both the north and south. We will strike Hamas wherever it is.” However, he did not indicate when he would order his forces into the southern half of the strip.
Some of the Palestinians sheltering in Khan Younis fled northern Gaza last month. The UN explains that patients have been evacuated from the Al Quds hospital in Gaza City to a hospital in Khan Younis.
According to the AP, there is not a clear plan in place for where the Palestinians should go. “It’s not clear where else they could go, as Egypt refuses to allow a mass transfer onto its soil,” the AP reports. Cairo sees opening its borders to the Palestinians creating permanent refugees and participating in Tel Aviv’s ethnic cleansing of Gaza.
This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.