Israel Poised To Attack After Warning To Immediately Evacuate Half Of Gaza

Day seven of the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas has arrived and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are now set to launch a major ground offensive into Gaza. However, while the Israeli military has called for residents of northern Gaza — around 1.1 million in all — to leave the area within 24 hours, Hamas has called upon civilians there to stay put.

Warning residents that its forces “will operate significantly in Gaza City in the coming days,” the IDF wants all civilians in the city to leave their homes and head southward, to greater safety. The IDF added that residents “will only be able to return to Gaza City when another announcement permitting.”

Palestinian citizens inspect the damage to their homes caused by Israeli airstrikes on October 13, 2023, in Gaza City. Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

All this suggests that an Israeli ground offensive is imminent, with IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus saying yesterday that an operation of this kind would be launched “when opportune and fit for our purposes.”

The situation has put Israel at loggerheads with the United Nations. Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, said that the IDF has stated that “the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours.” In turn, Dujarric warned that it is “impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences.”

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said the UN’s response was “shameful” and called upon the organization to focus on condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.

On the border with Jordan, there have been clashes between Jordanian security forces and pro-Palestinian protesters, apparently attempting to cross the fence and enter the West Bank. There are meanwhile reports that the Jordanian military has put tanks and other armor on the border to keep people from entering the West Bank.

Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise. As of today, 1,300 people are said to have been killed in Israel, most of these being victims of last weekend’s terror attacks by Hamas. The IDF says that this total included 222 soldiers who have been killed since then.

The weekend’s attacks also saw Israeli citizens taken hostage and the IDF now says it has identified 97 of those people, from a total of more than 100 who were taken by Hamas militants.

Gaza’s health ministry says that more than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes alone since Saturday, including 500 children, while more than 6,600 more people have been wounded. Israeli Air Force airstrikes have been incredibly fierce, with around 6,000 bombs dropped on Gaza in just the first six days of the campaign.

According to the IDF, raids overnight saw the Israeli Air Force hit 750 military targets, including “underground Hamas terror tunnels, military compounds and posts, residences of senior terrorist operatives used as military command centers, weapons storage warehouses, comms rooms, and targeted senior terrorist operatives.”

“Dozens of fighter jets struck numerous Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip, including 12 Hamas military assets, each located in a multi-story building used by the Hamas for terror purposes,” the IDF added.

On the ground, a team of IDF soldiers from an undisclosed special unit targeted “three Hamas operatives that specialize in mortar fire in the Gaza Strip,” according to the IDF.

The Israeli offensive has also made use of white phosphorus, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), posing what it says is “a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering.” HRW says it has evidence of white phosphorus being used by the IDF over the Gaza City port and at two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border.

White phosphorus is not a chemical weapon, as sometimes described, since it is primarily an incendiary weapon, although it’s also regularly used for making smokescreens and for target marking. Burning at around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, white phosphorus can obviously inflict terrible injuries and its use in densely populated violates international law.

In general, the situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly dire by the hour. Even without the prospect of an upcoming ground offensive, the conditions there are rapidly deteriorating, and many critical utilities are essentially shut down due to Israel’s all-out blockade on the territory.

The Israeli energy minister, Israel Katz, has said electricity, water, and fuel will only be permitted in Gaza once the Israeli hostages taken last weekend are returned home.

The UN’s World Food Program describes the situation in Gaza Strip are “dire” and “devastating,” with crucial supplies now running very low.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, says it has evidence of 34 attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Gaza since last Saturday. As well as killing and injuring health workers, this has left medical services depleted, with the WHO saying that the health system in Gaza is “at breaking point” and warning of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Again, that is before the prospect of a large-scale ground offensive that could now be around the corner.

U.S. citizens have also not been immune from the unfolding tragedy. The White House confirmed yesterday that 27 U.S. citizens have now been killed in Israel, with another 14 unaccounted for.

In support of Israel, the United Kingdom has pledged to deploy a Royal Navy task group to the eastern Mediterranean next week. Described as a “contingency measure to support humanitarian efforts,” the deployment will include P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the Royal Navy auxiliary landing ship dock RFA Lyme Bay, the casualty receiving ship RFA Argus, three Merlin maritime helicopters, and a company of Royal Marines. These will be on “standby to deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region and offer deterrence and assurance.”

Outside of the region, it seems that calls from former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal for protests across the Muslim world today in support of the Palestinians have found some uptake. Two days ago, Meshaal had also urged neighboring countries to join the fight against Israel.

“[We must] head to the squares and streets of the Arab and Islamic world on Friday,” Meshaal said in a recorded statement sent to Reuters.

The following links document some of the protests that have been noted so far today, in New York, Los Angeles, and Paris.

Anton Gerashchenko, the advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, has posted a video that he claims provides evidence of Russia-speaking instructors being involved in the Hamas attacks directed against Israel last weekend. The brief video, purported to show militants taking part in the operation on October 7, includes the words “Cover! Cover!,” in Russian.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin described the attack by Hamas as “unprecedented in its cruelty,” he has also cautioned Israel against launching a ground offensive into Gaza, warning that this would have “serious consequences for all sides.”

Today saw U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrive in Israel. He will meet with Israeli officials — including his counterpart there, Yoav Gallant — as the U.S. prepares to supply additional munitions and other weapons to Israel. You can read more about those plans in our previous coverage.

This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.