- United Nations says Israeli Defense Forces said 1.1 million people in northern Gaza should evacuate to southern Gaza within 24 hours
- Israel vows no end to siege of Gaza until hostages are freed
- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel has a right to defend itself, highlights need to protect innocent civilians in the conflict as he meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
- NATO condemns Hamas attacks, expresses solidarity with Israel
- U.N. says 340,000 people displaced in Gaza
- Israel says 1,300 killed in Hamas raid; Gaza says 1,500 killed in retaliatory strikes
A United Nations official said late Thursday that Israeli military officials said that the entire population of northern Gaza, about 1.1 million people, should relocate to southern Gaza within 24 hours.
“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
Dujarric said the order also applies to all U.N. staff and those sheltering in U.N. facilities — including schools, health centers and clinics.
The population of Gaza is already living under a complete siege imposed this week on the Hamas-controlled territory, in retaliation for Saturday’s deadly attacks on Israel that killed hundreds of civilians. Palestinians living there are without electricity, water and fuel.
The directive comes as Israel ramps up preparations for a ground invasion of Gaza, including positioning 300,000 reservists near the border with Gaza, but has said no decision had been made on moving forward with an offensive.
Israel launched new attacks Thursday, vowing there would be no letup in its bombardment of Gaza until Hamas militants release the estimated 150 hostages they are holding.
“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be lifted, no water hydrant will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Humanitarian for humanitarian. And nobody should preach us morals.”
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch confirmed that Israel used white phosphorus in military operations in Gaza on Wednesday in what constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law. White phosphorus can cause severe burns and long-term health issues.
“There was no use of white phosphorus in the Gaza Strip. Period,: IDF spokesperson Lt. Colonel Amnon Sheffler told reporters Thursday.
A campaign of Israeli airstrikes that began hours after Saturday’s Hamas incursion has killed at least 1,500 people in Gaza. Israel says it has dropped 6,000 bombs over six days of bombardment.
“The numbers of casualties are increasing every hour,” Bashar Murad, director of the humanitarian group the Palestinian Red Crescent, told Alhurra, an Arabic language satellite TV sister organization of the Voice of America. “The number of dead and injured that arrived to the hospitals is much more than the capacity of these hospitals.”
The U.S. said that 27 Americans were killed in the Hamas attack and 14 are missing.
The United Nations said nearly 340,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in Gaza, with more than two-thirds of them taking shelter in U.N. schools. It launched a humanitarian appeal Thursday for $294 million to meet immediate needs in Gaza and the West Bank.
Humanitarian organizations have expressed alarm about the fast-dwindling supplies of food, water, fuel and medicine in Gaza amid an Israeli blockade of the narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said, “The continuation of war crimes against Palestine and Gaza will receive a response from the rest of the axis. And naturally, the Zionist entity and its supporters will be responsible for the consequences of that.” Amirabdollahian was speaking through a translator upon his arrival in Beirut.
Iran and Israel are enemies, and Iran supports Hamas, but Iranian officials have denied any involvement in the recent Hamas rampage.
Meanwhile, the chief of staff for Israel’s military, Herzi Halevi, acknowledged Thursday that the military had failed to protect people living near Gaza when Hamas launched its attack.
He said the Israel Defense Forces are “responsible for the security of the country and its citizens, and on Saturday morning in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, we did not,” Halevi said. “We will learn, we will investigate, but now is the time for war.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi highlighted the need to “ensure the regularity of humanitarian and relief services, as well as aid to the people in the Gaza Strip.”
Sissi’s office said in a statement that he told British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a phone call Thursday that Egypt is pushing for calm to prevent “sliding into a bloody path” where civilians will pay the price.
The World Health Organization said it has documented 34 attacks on health centers in Gaza since Saturday that have led to the deaths of 11 health care workers on duty, as well as 16 injuries.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists has documented at least seven journalists killed in Gaza since Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself following the Hamas attack, while also stressing the need to take precautions to prevent harm to innocent civilians.
“We know Hamas didn’t commit its heinous acts with the interests of the Palestinian people in mind,” Blinken said as he spoke to reporters alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Hamas has only one agenda: to destroy Israel and to murder Jews.”
Netanyahu thanked the United States for its support and vowed to crush Hamas in the same way that Islamic State group was defeated.
“There will be many difficult days ahead, but I have no doubt that the forces of civilization will win,” Netanyahu said. “We must stand tall, proud and united against evil.”
The U.S. has provided more military assistance to Israel to defend itself, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying the U.S. is placing no specific conditions on how Israel uses the American-provided munitions.
Blinken is also due to visit Jordan, where a U.S. official said he will meet Friday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
Also Friday, the U.N. Security Council will hold a closed-door meeting to discuss developments.
NATO said defense ministers meeting Thursday in Brussels condemned the Hamas attack, expressed their solidarity with Israel and called on the militants to immediately release all hostages.
“Israel does not stand alone,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefed the NATO defense ministers by video conference to update them about the conflict.
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, said Thursday that it will send surveillance aircraft and two Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean in plans “to support Israel.”
At the White House, President Joe Biden reaffirmed Washington’s support for Israel and assured a group of Jewish leaders Wednesday that his administration was “working on every aspect of the hostage crisis in Israel.”
Netanyahu created a war Cabinet with former defense chief Benny Gantz, a centrist opposition National Unity Party leader, along with Gallant, so they can solely focus on combating Hamas.
The unusual arrangement, with other Cabinet members from Netanyahu’s right-wing government apparently remaining in place, pieces together a degree of unity after years of bitterly divisive politics.
Netanyahu has vowed to end Hamas’ rule in Gaza so that the militants can no longer threaten Israel.
VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell and United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information for this article came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.