Huge surge in Palestinians fleeing intense fighting in northern Gaza


Tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the combat zones of the besieged northern parts of the Gaza Strip after Israel opened a temporary evacuation corridor on Wednesday.

An estimated 50,000 people used the passage, joining 900,000 others who have escaped south in recent weeks, the Israeli Defence Ministry agency that is responsible for Palestinian affairs said.

A spokeswoman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was unable to provide a figure for Wednesday.

But it confirmed that the number had been steadily increasing over the last three days.

Also tomorrow, we would continue to allow the civilians in Gaza to move south away from the grasp of Hamas in the north, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday evening.

Israeli ground operations have moved deeper into Gaza City the largest and most densely packed population centre in the Palestinian territory prompting the fresh exodus from the north.

The territory is home to more than 2.2 million people.

Israel expanded its ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27, after weeks of airstrikes in retaliation for the Hamas terrorist attack on southern Israel that killed 1,400 people on Oct. 7.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday night that troops had reached the depths of Gaza City, which is a main bastion of the Hamas militant group.

Israeli political and military leaders say they were intent on eradicating Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

The number of Palestinians killed there since the start of the war stands at 10,569, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.

Among the dead were 4,324 children and young people, the ministry said, while some 2,550 people have been reported missing.

The figures, which climb every day, cannot be independently verified.

Israel’s army had given civilians about a five-hour window of opportunity to flee safely to the south on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Health Ministry countered that there was no safe place in the entire Gaza Strip.

He accused Israel of also committing massacres in the south.

Israel accuses Hamas of deliberately using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Much of the ground fighting is centred on Gaza City, where an extensive bunker network used by Hamas is located.

The Israeli army said it had destroyed a total of 130 tunnel shafts belonging to Hamas so far.

It released videos on Wednesday showing heavy equipment digging up tunnel entrances.

Water and air supplies in the tunnels were evidence of planned longer stays, the statement said.

The army had also discovered tunnel shafts under a Hamas training camp, which has now been destroyed.

The war’s toll on the health system continued to mount, with Gaza City hit especially hard.

The major Al-Quds Hospital in the city had to significantly reduce operations due to a lack of fuel.

Israel is not allowing fuel into the strip due to fears it could be used by militants.

Surgical procedures, X-rays and MRI scans were stopped, the Palestinian Red Crescent, which runs the hospital, said on Wednesday.

They added that the central power generator will also be turned off and only a smaller one would be used.

There would be electricity in each of the three buildings for two hours a day so that the approximately 14,000 displaced people staying there can cook and charge their cell phones.

A convoy with medical supplies had reached the Dar al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA and the World Health Organisation said.

It is only the second delivery of supplies to the hospital since the conflict began.

According to the Hamas spokesman for Health Ministry, Ashraf Al-Qudra, 120 health institutions have been targeted or damaged during the Israeli military campaign.

This included 18 hospitals and 40 health centres that are now out of service.

On the diplomatic front, G7 foreign ministers meeting in Tokyo said they support “humanitarian pauses’’ in Gaza, but refrained from calling for a general ceasefire.

“We stress the need for urgent action to address the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza,’’ a G7 statement said.

“All parties must allow unimpeded humanitarian support for civilians, including food, water, medical care, fuel, and shelter, and access for humanitarian workers.’’

The Palestinian border authority said 2,060 foreign passport holders have left Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt since last week.

As Palestinians fled south, in the north the Lebanon-based pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement said it once again fired missiles towards Israel.

Two soldiers were injured by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon into the Dovev area, the Israeli army said.

The military returned fire. There has been daily cross-border shelling for weeks.

Egypt began receiving foreign nationals and Palestinians with second passports from Gaza on Nov. 1, while some critically injured Palestinians were transferred to Egyptian hospitals for treatment.

Since then, some 100 injured and 13 cancer patients have arrived, and some of them had companions, according to data from the Palestinian border authority.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said they received 81 aid trucks on Tuesday, bringing the total since Oct. 21 to 650. (dpa/NAN)