Tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the fighting and airstrikes in Gaza, as Israel declared a “stranglehold” on Hamas and rejected a truce without the release of captives.
Calls for a truce to protect civilians have grown in the month since Hamas launched an onslaught on Israel, killing around 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 239 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
In order to defeat Hamas, Israel replied with a continuous bombardment and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, killing more than 10,500 people, many of whom were children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
Despite reports of negotiations for a short truce with Hamas to allow in humanitarian relief, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the notion of a ceasefire in Gaza once more.
On Wednesday, the Israeli army said that 50,000 Palestinians fled north Gaza for the south of the restricted coastal strip as fighting raged between Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and Israeli troops.
“We saw today how 50,000 Gazans moved from northern Gaza to southern Gaza,” said military spokesman Daniel Hagari. “They’re leaving because they understand that Hamas lost control in the north, and in the south it’s safer.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 15,000 people fled on Tuesday, up from 5,000 on Monday and 2,000 on Sunday.
During a visit to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only way out of the beleaguered territory that is not controlled by Israel, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk denounced Israel for the forced evacuations.
“The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians,” he told a news conference.
“The aid getting through is a trickle,” Turk said, adding it was Israel’s obligation to “ensure a maximum of basic necessities of life that can reach all who need it.”
A Hamas spokesman told AFP that despite a big crowd waiting at the crossing terminal, evacuations of wounded Palestinians and dual nationals were halted on Wednesday, blaming Israel’s unwillingness to authorize the list of wounded to be brought across the border.