The IDF’s Arab-language channels on Sunday shared a series of videos on social media platforms giving Gazan residents instructions on where to evacuate during the Israeli military response to Hamas’s onslaught.
In a speech on Saturday night, hours after the start of the invasion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told residents of Gaza to “get out now,” warning of an imminent Israeli attack against Hamas.
However, Gazan civilians cannot exit the coastal enclave that easily. The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took control over it in 2007, a measure that Israel has claimed is necessary to prevent Hamas from freely arming itself for war and attacks.
The blockade has imposed great limitations on the movement of civilians out of the territory. One way used to be via the Erez Crossing into Israel, which was reserved for a few limited categories of people with special authorization — and was destroyed by Hamas terrorists on Saturday.
The other way out is the Rafah Crossing into Egypt, but even in times of peace travel documents can take months to be issued by the Hamas government. A black market has developed over the years to expedite the process, with people paying as much as $4,000 to jump the line, a very high sum for most of Gaza’s residents.
A Gaza resident, speaking to The Times of Israel on Sunday on condition of anonymity, said civilians in the Strip were caught completely off guard by Hamas’s onslaught against Israel, adding that schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, are considered the only safe shelter in a rapidly deteriorating situation. She added that fear is spreading among the civilian population, particularly in the refugee camps after dark, due to the lack of lighting. On Monday morning, Israel announced the interruption of electrical power supply, fuel and food to the strip.
In its series of videos addressed to the civilian population of Gaza on Sunday, an IDF spokesperson explained that “the operations of terrorist organizations have forced the IDF to act against them in the area where you live. The IDF is not interested in hurting you or your families. Therefore, in order to preserve your safety, you must leave your place of residence.”
The spokesperson then proceeded to show maps of specific neighborhoods of various localities along the 41 km (25-mile) long strip, giving instructions to residents on where to evacuate.
Residents of the al-Maqousi, Beit Hanoun, and Shejaiya areas around Gaza City were directed to the city’s center. Gazans living around the al-Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps located in the center of the coastal enclave were instructed to find shelter inside the camps, while those living in the towns of Abasan al-Kabira and Abasan al-Saghira in the south-center of the strip were told to seek refuge inside Khan Younis, the second largest urban area in the Strip after Gaza City. Those living in the southern end of the strip were instructed to find shelter in the Rafah city, along the Egypt border.
Meanwhile, UNRWA said on Sunday that more than 73,000 people found shelter in 64 of its schools around Gaza, adding that UNRWA teams are providing families with shelter and clean water, and preparing to also give food, hygiene kits and cleaning supplies. The agency also said that one of its schools, sheltering 225 people, was directly hit and damaged on Sunday, but nobody was hurt.