IDF tells 1 million Gaza residents to evacuate their homes within 24 hours
Golan Vach, commander in the army’s national rescue unit said he personally evacuated more than 320 dead bodies from southern Israel, including decapitated babies and women with their hands cut off
Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images
Palestinian civilians living in Gaza City and the northern area of the Gaza Strip were instructed by the Israeli military on Friday to evacuate their homes and move southward, suggesting the army is gearing up for a full scale military operation in response to Saturday’s brutal terrorist attack by Palestinian militants that killed more than 1,300 people.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the IDF had sent its message in Arabic, via media, social media, local civilian and international organizations.
Hagari said that the army was expecting the evacuation of an estimated one million residents of northern Gaza to take some time, but the aim was to remove Hamas’ ability to harm Israel like it did on Saturday.
“Hamas is in control of Gaza and it is responsible for the civilian population,” he said. “They knew this would happen as a result of the brutal and ruthless massacre in Israel.”
“The world should hold Hamas and only Hamas responsible,” continued Hagari, adding “We are not fighting the people of Gaza, the civilians or the residents, we are fighting a terrorist organization that is the sovereign and which as the U.S. president said is worse than ISIS. Much worse.”
Hagari said that Hamas “exploits the Gazan population” and that he had been receiving reports that the terror group was actively preventing civilians from leaving, despite the IDF warning.
“We cannot continue to live with Hamas or ISIS near our borders,” Hagari said. “Like ISIS, Hamas has no desire to live, no desire to build the economy, no desire for freedom, no desire to prosper.”
Hagari said the army was doing its best not to harm sensitive sites, and that humanitarian action to prevent damage to hospitals and other essential civilian infrastructure was being discussed with international aid organizations.
Evidence of Hamas atrocities in communities and areas of southern Israel continued to emerge throughout Wednesday with first responders from the army and Israeli first aid agencies recounting to the media the horrors they uncovered on army bases, kibbutzim, and in the towns of Sderot and Ofakim, even as efforts to recover and identify the dead continued.
Col. (Res) Golan Vach, Commander of the National Rescue Unit in the Home Front Command, told journalists that he personally evacuated more than 320 bodies from Kibbutz Kfar Azza, Kibbutz Be’eri and from the Nova music festival that had been taking place in the forest next to Kibbutz Re’im.
“I found some babies with their heads cut, which I personally evacuated, I found butchered women with no hands, soldiers with their heads cut, and found dozens of burnt young people,” he recounted. “I know that some people are asking for proof, and I did take photographs, but I could not take a picture of the baby, I just could not do it.”
A report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday suggested that Hamas terrorists arrived highly prepared for Saturday’s attack, carrying with them detailed maps of the communities and areas in Southern Israel, as well as tactical guides identifying weak spots on Israeli army armored vehicles.
In addition to the rising death toll and the stories of individual bravery now coming to light, the number of people believed to have been taken hostage inside Gaza is more than 120, including dozens of children taken without their parents, the army confirmed. Families of the missing – including an unconfirmed number of U.S. citizens – appealed to Israeli authorities and to the world to do whatever is possible to save their loved ones.
Overnight Thursday, Israeli fighter jets struck some 750 military targets in the northern Gaza Strip, including underground terror tunnels, military compounds, and residences of senior terrorist operatives that have been used as command centers, weapons storage warehouses and comms rooms. Senior terrorist operatives, including from Hamas’ elite Nukhba force and those specializing in mortar fire, were also targeted, said the army.
Gaza’s Ministry of Health said that at least 1,500 Palestinians have been killed in the air strikes, and some 6,600 people injured. Eyewitness reports said that entire neighborhoods and several multistory buildings had been destroyed.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general, said in a briefing on Wednesday that over the past 24 hours, more than 300,000 people had been displaced inside Gaza, with two-thirds taking shelter in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
He also said that Gaza’s sole power plant had run out of fuel and was no longer functioning, “triggering an immediate black-out, which continues throughout the Strip.”
“A water crisis is looming in UNRWA emergency shelters and across the Gaza Strip due to damaged infrastructure, lack of electricity needed to operate pumps and desalination plants, as well as limited supply of water in the local market,” said Dujarric.