At least 21 kids in 13 families orphaned by Hamas onslaught

About 200,000 Israelis internally displaced amid ongoing Gaza war, tensions in north

Hotels are near capacity as government orders evacuations of dozens of communities near Hamas-run Strip, Lebanon border

Residents of the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona leave amid orders to evacuate, due to threats on Israel's northern border from Lebanon, October 22, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Residents of the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona leave amid orders to evacuate, due to threats on Israel's northern border from Lebanon, October 22, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Some 200,000 Israelis have been internally displaced in the ongoing Israel-Hamas following the terror group’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel, and amid escalating skirmishes on the Lebanon border in the north with terror group Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions, according to Israeli authorities.

About half of the 200,000 were instructed to evacuate from 105 communities near the Gaza and Lebanon borders in the south and north, while half left areas close to the front of their own volition, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday.

The Defense Ministry, through its National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), said it was giving services to about 120,000 displaced Israelis ordered to evacuate from 25 communities up to four kilometers from the Gaza Strip, and from another 28 communities up to two kilometers from the Lebanon border, according to a Defense Ministry announcement.

According to ministry officials, the numbers are broken down into two main categories: people who have been fully evacuated from their homes, and people who are eligible “to rest and refresh themselves” at state-subsidized guesthouses temporarily.

NEMA has also been working to evacuate some 23,000 Israelis from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona in recent days amid an uptick in attacks on the northern border. NEMA announced Sunday morning that it would evacuate another 14 towns near the Lebanon border, comprising another 11,000 residents.

Separately, some 36,000 residents of Sderot and 18,000 Israelis living in 29 towns between four and seven kilometers from Gaza are eligible to go and “rest and refresh themselves” for a week at state-subsidized guesthouses.

A resident of Kiryat Shmona prepares to leave town amid orders to evacuate, October 22, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The state will be responsible for these Israelis until the military allows them to return to what is now a closed military zone near the Gaza border and a restricted area near Lebanon.

Ministry officials said not all of those living in those areas have taken the opportunity to leave at this stage. Additionally, many Israelis have evacuated their homes near the northern and southern borders, despite not being ordered to, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, hotel rooms across the country are limited in number and chaos has been registered in the evacuation plan as it gets underway, according to Hebrew media reports.

According to Ynet, there are currently some 56,000 hotel rooms that meet the criteria for hosting people and families displaced by the war, as many hotels are closed and some are not suitable for hosting during wartime.

The Israel Hotels Association (IHA) said the supply of available rooms was running out and that the organization was “scrambling for free rooms all over the country in accordance with the government’s requirements.”

The IHA said an operation center launched together with the Tourism Ministry, which works closely with the hospitality industry, was working “24/7 and responds to all government requests,” adding that “this is a challenging period,” according to a statement cited by Ynet.

Two of Israel’s largest hotel chains, Isrotel and Fattal, said they have worked since the beginning of the war to accommodate government requests to host displaced Israelis.

Residents of the Be’eri kibbutz seen at a hotel near the Dead Sea, on October 20, 2023, after they were evacuated from their homes. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Also Sunday, the Welfare Ministry said that at least 21 children in 13 families have been left with no parents after they were murdered by terrorists during the Hamas onslaught.

One of them is a 4-year-old girl held hostage in Gaza. Another young girl’s mother was murdered and her father is being held captive, the ministry said.

Social workers with the ministry are working to identify all such children and provide them and their guardians with all the resources necessary, the ministry added.

Israel is more than two weeks into a war with Hamas after the Iran-backed terror group’s murderous assault on the country on October 7, in which some 2,500 terrorists streamed into Israel by land, sea, and air, killing some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and injuring thousands more. The terror group and other factions dragged over 200 hostages of all ages into Gaza.

Israel says its campaign in Gaza is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

In the north, Hamas ally Hezbollah, also an Iranian proxy, has fired dozens of anti-tank guided missiles, rockets, and mortars at Israeli military positions and Israeli towns since the October 7 Hamas onslaught, while also sending gunmen — some affiliated with Palestinian terror groups — to infiltrate into northern Israel.

Several drones have also been intercepted over northern Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah on Sunday that it would be “making the mistake of its life” if it decided to enter the war.

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