The Israeli military has instructed the entire population of the northern Gaza Strip to move within 24 hours for their own safety.
More than a million Palestinians – including all those living in Gaza City – are affected by this instruction.
Israel has stationed tanks on Gaza’s boundaries as it prepares for a possible ground offensive in response to Saturday’s wave of killings and hostage taking by Hamas.
However, the United Nations says it will be impossible for so many Palestinians to be moved so quickly without devastating humanitarian consequences. Palestinian authorities have also informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that it is “impossible” to evacuate vulnerable patients from hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip.
The UN spokesman urged Israel to rescind the order.
As of Friday afternoon, civilians began fleeing northern Gaza by automobile, on the back of lorries and on foot.
In Gaza, total blockade is being enforced with fuel, food and water running out. Israeli aircraft bombed 750 “military targets” in the Gaza Strip last night, the IDF announced on Friday.
Hamas gunmen kidnapped at least 150 people – mostly civilians, including women and children – and took them into Gaza during brutal attacks on Israel at the weekend that killed 1,300 people. According to the Israeli government, more than 150 Israelis, foreigners and dual nationals, are being held by the Palestinian Islamist movement.
More than 1,500 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes.
Elsewhere, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tehran, Baghdad, Amman and Bahrain to express their support for the Palestinians.
By Nathan Morley