Israel orders evacuations in southern Gaza after truce expires: live updates

Israel orders evacuations in southern Gaza after truce expires: live updates

After a week of calm, Yousef Hammash woke up Friday in the southern Gaza town of Rafah to the sound of booming explosions. The brief sense of security he had felt was over, he thought.

“Seven weeks of madness were followed by seven days of humanitarian pause,” Mr. Hammash, head of advocacy for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Gaza, said in a voice message. “And now we are back in the cycle of violence. »

The fragile seven-day truce in the region collapsed early Friday, and Gaza was hit once again as Israel resumed one of the most intense bombing campaigns of the 21st century. In the hours that followed, according to Gaza health authorities, 178 Palestinians were killed and another 578 people were injured.

The truce agreement concluded between Israel and Hamas, which entered into force on November 24, allowed the release of 240 imprisoned Palestinians and 81 hostages taken by Hamas and other militant groups on October 7. Thai farm workers were also released in separate negotiations of the ceasefire agreement.

The truce also allowed more humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries to Gaza than in previous weeks of the war.

Israeli and Hamas officials said the deal failed because they failed to agree on additional exchanges of hostages and Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Israel and Hamas have also accused each other of violating the ceasefire.

Mr Hammash said the Norwegian Refugee Council, a non-governmental group based in Oslo, had taken advantage of the temporary ceasefire to prepare a plan for distributing aid. But with the resumption of fighting, he explained, his teams ceased their operations.

The latest phase of Israel’s campaign against Gaza is expected to target the southern half of the region, where many Palestinians have sought refuge.

Some Palestinians near Khan Younis said the Israeli army was ordering them to evacuate further south to Rafah, which lies along the Gaza-Egypt border. But this city was also hit by airstrikes. Many Palestinians and observers say that nowhere in Gaza can be considered safe.

Mahmoud el-Khaldi, a 17-year-old from Gaza City, suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in his lungs, liver and spleen following the November 20 Israeli airstrikes in Rafah that killed his sister, Carolin el-Khaldi, 28 years old. He was discharged from the European Hospital in Gaza on Thursday and went to his aunt’s house in Al Qarara, a few kilometers north of Rafah, near the town of Khan Younis.

On Friday morning, thunderous Israeli airstrikes hit nearby homes, blowing out his aunt’s windows and injuring Mr. el-Khaldi again, this time slightly.

“As soon as the truce ended, they hit houses near us,” Mr. el-Khaldi said in a telephone interview Friday evening. “It was a horrible sound.”

Mr. el-Khaldi said the Israeli army ordered his family to leave Al Qarara and return to Rafah. His family, however, refused.

Sameer al-Jarrah, 67, has lived in Al Qarara since the war began on October 7, following Hamas’s devastating attacks on Israel from Gaza.

“I don’t know where to go,” he said. When asked if Rafah was a possibility, he replied: “Where people will go, I will go. »

At least 1.8 million residents, or 80 percent of Gaza’s population of some 2.2 million, have been forced to flee their homes since the war. Many fear permanent displacement.

Gheed al-Hessi, 37, moved from northern Gaza to Rafah in October, when the Israeli army ordered a mass evacuation that sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing south. But describing the south as the safest or most humanitarian area in Gaza is a “very big lie,” she said.

Huge explosions late at night and early in the morning often wake her, leaving her shocked and shaking. She said she no longer had drinking water, cooking gas and electricity.

“Rafah is not safe at all,” she said. “Since the very beginning of the war, many buildings and many families have been affected. »

She said a friend called her on Friday and asked if there was anywhere she could go in Rafah; Ms al-Hessi responded that the situation was dire, with many forced to sleep outside, on the sidewalk or in nylon tents.

Rafah residents, she added, were concerned about just one issue.

“If Israeli forces threaten us and ask us to evacuate and leave Rafah,” she said, “where will we go?

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Eric D. Eilerman

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