Conditions in Gaza have deteriorated into a “complete catastrophe,” according to one official, with serious shortages of clean water and food as tens of thousands of Palestinians attempt to flee crippling airstrikes and an Israeli ground offensive.
Israel’s military said Saturday its forces are readying for the next stages of the war, including “combined and coordinated strikes from the air, sea and land” in response to the unprecedented October 7 terrorist attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the enclave.
At least 1,300 people were killed during Hamas’ rampage in what US President Joe Biden described as “the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust.”
Further escalation of the long-running conflict now increasingly risks spilling over regionally, prompting the Pentagon to order a second carrier strike group and squadrons of fighter jets to the region as a deterrence to Iran and Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The clock is ticking for residents fleeing south through the battered streets of Gaza after the Israeli military told civilians to leave northern areas of the densely populated strip.
More than half of Gaza’s 2 million residents live in the northern section that Israel said should evacuate. Many families, some of whom were already internally displaced, are now crammed into an even smaller portion of the 140-square-mile territory.
Civilians packed into cars, taxis, pickup trucks and donkey-pulled carts. Roads were filled with snaking lines of vehicles strapped with suitcases and mattresses. Those without other options walked, carrying what they could.
“We will commence significant military operations only once we see that civilians have left the area,” Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN early Sunday. “I cannot stress more than enough to say now is the time for Gazans to leave.”