Gaza City residents told to leave amid renewed fighting

The Israeli military has urged all Palestinians to leave Gaza City and head south, pressing ahead with a fresh offensive across the north, south and centre of the territory that has killed dozens of people over the past 48 hours.

An Israeli tank near the Gaza border. The IDF is pushing into the Gaza Strip's largest city in pursuit of militants. Photo: AP

An Israeli tank near the Gaza border. The IDF is pushing into the Gaza Strip's largest city in pursuit of militants. Photo: AP

The stepped-up military activity came as US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators met with Israeli officials in the Qatari capital Doha for talks seeking a long-elusive ceasefire deal with Gaza’s Hamas militant group in exchange for the release of dozens of Israeli hostages it is holding.

Israel says it is pursuing Hamas fighters that are regrouping in various parts of Gaza nine months into the war.

But heavy strikes in recent days along the length of the territory also could be aimed at putting more pressure on Hamas in the truce talks.

In a visit on Wednesday to the centre of the Gaza Strip, Israel’s military chief Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi said forces were operating in different ways, in multiple parts of the territory “to carry out a very important mission: pressure. We will continue operating to bring home the hostages”.

Israel informed people in Gaza of the evacuation order by dropping leaflets urging “all those in Gaza City” to take two “safe routes” south to the area around the central town of Deir al-Balah.

It said Gaza City – the largest city in the enclave – will “remain a dangerous combat zone”.

Months ago, Israel ordered residents of northern Gaza, including Gaza City, to flee south, and much of the population left earlier in the war.

Large parts of Gaza City and urban areas around it have been flattened or left a shattered landscape by previous Israeli assaults.

The United Nations says about 300,000 Palestinians have remained in the hard-hit north, with the bulk of those said to be in Gaza City.

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Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are crammed into squalid tent camps in central and southern Gaza.

Israeli troops have pushed into parts of Gaza City in recent days, triggering the flight of thousands of Palestinians trying to escape shelling and air strikes.

This past week, the military ordered Palestinians to leave eastern and central parts of the city.

The Israeli army said on Wednesday it wrapped up an operation launched late last month in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shijaiyah, where it killed dozens of militants and destroyed eight underground tunnels.

In nine months of bombardment and offensives in the Gaza Strip, Israel has killed more than 38,200 people and wounded more than 88,000, according to the territory’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Nearly the entire population has been driven from their homes and many have been displaced multiple times.

During the October 7 raid, militants killed 1200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

The militants took about 250 people hostage.

About 120 are still in captivity, with about a third said to be dead.


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