The Israeli military has informed the UN that it wants approximately 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza, which is about half of the population of the Hamas-controlled enclave, to evacuate to southern Gaza in the next 24 hours, a spokesman for the world body said.
According to Stephane Dujarric the spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the military told the UN just before midnight on Thursday that “the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours”, CNN reported.
“This amounts to approximately 1.1 million people. The same order applied to all UN staff and those sheltered in UN facilities — including schools, health centres and clinics,” the world body said in a statement.
“The UN considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences. The UN strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
Slamming the UN’s response to the order, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, said it was just an early warning to the residents of Gaza aimed to “minimise harm to those not involved” in its military operation against Hamas, reports CNN.
“For many years, the UN has turned a blind eye to the arming of Hamas and its use of the civilian population and civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip as a hiding place for its weapons and murder,” he said.
“Now, instead of standing by Israel, whose citizens were slaughtered by Hamas terrorists… it preaches to Israel… It is better for the UN to focus now on returning the hostages, condemning Hamas, and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself,” the envoy added.
This development comes ahead of an emergency meeting called on Friday by the UN Security Council in the wake of the raging conflict that erupted after the Hamas launched its surprise large-scale assault on southern Israel on October 7.
In retaliation, Israel has been bombarding the Gaza Strip with airstrikes.
According to the Israeli military, there have been more that 6,000 airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled enclave in the last six days.
The Jewish nation has amassed more than 300,000 reservists along its southern border with Gaza but it is yet to confirm if it was launching a ground offensive.