Thousands of Gazans waving white flags head south along IDF evacuation route

Palestinians recount being told to raise their hands by troops as they make journey; chief of IDF Southern Command says ‘we won’t rest, we won’t stop, until we fulfill our mission’

A woman carries a white flag with a group of Palestinians fleeing Gaza City to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din street in Bureij, November 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
A woman carries a white flag with a group of Palestinians fleeing Gaza City to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din street in Bureij, November 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)

Thousands of Gazan civilians moved southward in the Strip on Tuesday through an evacuation corridor set up by the IDF to enable safe passage, according to an Israeli Defense Ministry body.

COGAT, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, shared a brief video on X it said showed the movement of civilians southward, many of whom could be seen carrying white flags and holding their hands in the air, passing by an Israeli tank.

The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, Avichay Adraee, also posted the short clip, telling residents that the Salah a-Din road would be open for Palestinians to evacuate to southern Gaza between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“If you care about yourself and your loved ones, head south according to our instructions,” he wrote. “Rest assured that Hamas leaders have already taken care of themselves.”

Photographers for the AFP and AP agencies also documented the movement southward of large groups of Palestinians on Salah a-Din road in the Strip on Tuesday.

For weeks Israeli authorities have been urging civilians in Gaza to move to the southern part of the Strip, as its ground and air operations against have been mostly concentrated in the north. Israel has dropped fliers in the northern Strip urging people to leave and providing maps of evacuation routes.

Hundreds of thousands have already heeded the call, but others stayed put, deterred by overcrowding in the south, a dwindling water and food supplies, and fears of the treacherous journey.

Hamas has accused the IDF of firing on or striking convoys of those evacuating, charges that Israel has strongly denied. The IDF instead has provided evidence that Hamas operatives are trying to prevent civilians from moving south, setting up roadblocks and purportedly even firing on convoys.

On Saturday, when the Salah a-Din road was open for a humanitarian corridor, the IDF said Hamas took advantage of the situation and launched mortars and anti-tank guided missiles at troops working to open up the road for civilians.

Amal, a young woman who made the journey on Monday, told the Associated Press that it was “very difficult.” She said that tanks fired near the group, and soldiers then ordered everyone to raise their hands and wave white flags before being allowed to pass.

A man gestures as Palestinians fleeing Gaza City walk toward southern areas of the Strip on November 7, 2023. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

In an interview Monday evening on ABC, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated Israeli assertions that Hamas is “using their civilians as human shields, and while we are asking the Palestinian civilian population to leave the war zone, they are preventing them at gunpoint.”

On Monday, a woman who left the Al-Shati neighborhood in the north of Gaza gave an interview to the Qatar-based Al-Araby TV station about the journey.

“We walked on foot, we were afraid, we held our hands up with our ID cards, [the IDF] shot but they did not shoot at us, we kept walking,” she said. She said the situation in Al-Shati was scary, with many killed, and the IDF dropped fliers calling on them to leave, so “all the residents of Al-Shati left.”

The evacuation corridor was one of several set up by the IDF in the 10 days since it launched its extensive ground operation in the Gaza Strip. As Israel marked a month since the brutal October 7 Hamas massacre, which started the ongoing war, a senior IDF general said the military is continuing to make significant strides toward its goal of eliminating Hamas.

Palestinians fleeing Gaza City towards the southern areas walk on a road in the Strip on November 7, 2023. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, summarized the first month of the war by hailing IDF soldiers and commanders as a “generation of victory.”

“Our actions are harming the heart of Hamas activities. We eliminated dozens of commanders, unveiled many tunnels, and we are striking the enemy hard,” he said in a statement after entering the Strip for an assessment.

Finkelman said the troops taking part in the ground operation have the hostages held by Hamas on their mind the entire time, and that “returning them is our compass.”

“For the first time in decades, the IDF is fighting in the heart of Gaza City, in the heart of terror. It is a complex and difficult war, and unfortunately it also has taken a toll,” he said.

“We’re continuing with all our might, with the goal of defeating the despicable Hamas group. We’re getting our fighting spirit from the strength of the nation of Israel. We won’t rest, we won’t stop, until we fulfill our mission — until victory.”

Head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman is seen in the Gaza Strip, November 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel declared war on Hamas after some 3,000 terrorists breached the Gaza border on October 7, slaughtering around 1,400 people — mainly civilians — in communities in southern Israel. They also took at least 240 hostages to the Strip, including at least 30 children.

At least 30 IDF soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground operation in Gaza.

Palestinians fleeing Gaza City towards the southern areas walk on a road in the Strip on November 7, 2023. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Faced with the worst civilian trauma in its history, Israel has vowed to end Hamas’s control of the territory and eliminate the terror threat that has constantly emanated from the enclave for the better part of two decades.

The Hamas-run health ministry claims that more than 10,300 Gazans have been killed since the start of the war, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes both Hamas terror operatives as well as those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches at Israel.

Israel says that it tries to minimize civilian casualties and accuses Hamas of using noncombatants as human shields while embedding fighters and military infrastructure in homes, schools, mosques and hospitals.

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