Civilians flee northern Gaza after Israel warning as Netanyahu vows to 'destroy' Hamas

ITV News' John Ray reports on the latest developments as fighting between Israel and Hamas continues

  • The death toll from the seven-day conflict has surpassed 3,200 people on both sides, with more than 1,900 Palestinians, and at least 1,300 Israelis killed since Saturday. Thousands more have been injured.

  • Israel says Gaza will receive no fuel, food, water or electricity until Hamas terrorists release Israeli hostages, as charities warn there are just hours worth of fuel left.

  • A 24-hour evacuation order for 1.1 million people in north Gaza has been issued by Israel's military amid fears of a ground invasion.

  • The first UK repatriation flight left Tel Aviv on Friday evening. British citizens in Gaza have been told by the UK Government to follow evacuation orders.

  • Hamas said on Friday that Israeli airstrikes have killed 13 hostages - including foreigners - in the last 24 hours.

  • An Israeli military spokesman said ground troops conducted raids in Gaza on Friday, then left. 

Palestinians are fleeing northern Gaza after Israel's army told the 1.1 million people living in the area to evacuate within 24 hours.

Families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with blankets and possessions were seen heading out of Gaza City amid fears of an Israeli ground invasion.

Hamas has claimed 70 Palestinians - including women and children - were killed by Israeli airstrikes as they they headed south, the group's media office has said.

It was not immediately clear who the targets of the alleged airstrikes were.

Palestinians fleeing from northern Gaza to the south with their belongings stacked on their cars. Credit: AP

As people continue to flee into southern Gaza, the US said it is working alongside Israel and aid organisations to establish “safe zones” for civilians in Gaza as a "priority", according Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas as the army prepares for an expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

“This is just the beginning,” Mr Netanyahu said. “We will end this war stronger than ever.”

“We will destroy Hamas,” he added, saying Israel has widespread international support for the operation.

ITV News' John Irvine reports on the plans of an Israeli ground offensive

On Friday, the Israeli military said ground troops entered the Gaza Strip and conducted house raids.

In a statement, the army said it entered Gaza to battle Hamas terrorists, destroy weapons and search for evidence about the missing hostages held by Hamas. It said troops completed the raid then left Gaza.

Israel has been massing troops along the Gaza border since last Saturday’s brutal attack staged by Hamas almost one week ago.

Hamas terrorists stormed into the country, attacking and killing innocent festival goers, slaughtering people in their beds in villages near the border and taking around 150 people hostage.

22-year-old Plestia Alqad, a journalist from Gaza, takes ITV News through the reality of those living on the Gaza Strip as Israel sends missiles into the territory following Hamas' attack over the weekend

The UN warned so many people fleeing Gaza en masse - almost half of its 2.3 million population - would be calamitous, and it urged Israel to reverse the order. 

Many Palestinians were left uncertain on whether to leave - their homeland already faces a total power blackout, plus constant bombardment by Israeli airstrikes.

“Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’ll make it, if you’re going to live,” said Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City.

Hamas called on people to stay in their homes, saying the order was “psychological warfare” to break their solidarity.

It claimed on Friday that 13 hostages - including foreigners - terrorists took into Gaza have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in the past 24 hours.

'Death was a blessing' says a father when he learnt his daughter was killed by Hamas terrorists, while ITV News' John Ray speaks to another father in Tel Aviv who does not know the fate of his missing daughter

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps told ITV's Good Morning Britain it is a "very real possibility" that British nationals are among the hostages. But he added the UK does not have "specific details on those things".

The Foreign Office (FCDO) confirmed the first UK Government chartered flight to evacuate vulnerable Britons from Israel has left the country. It did not confirm where the flight was due to land.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “A UK Government charter flight has now left Israel, with further flights expected to leave in the coming days while commercial options are limited.”

But according to flight tracker tool FlightRadar24, a Royal Air Force A400M transport plane left Tel Aviv and arrived in Larnaca in Cyprus late on Friday evening.

The FCDO said Britons in Gaza should follow Israel’s evacuation order.

A spokesman said: “We have updated travel advice to recommend British nationals in Gaza follow Israel’s directive, if they are able to, but recognise this will be challenging for some people.

“Israel has our full support in fighting Hamas terror. Hamas has enmeshed itself in the civilian population in Gaza and therefore it is important that all possible measures are taken to protect civilians and ensure safe humanitarian access.

“Israel’s efforts to provide advance warning to civilians are in stark contrast to Hamas’ disregard for the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, especially with Hamas telling Gazans to ignore this warning.”

Rishi Sunak has announced Royal Navy vessels and Royal Air Force surveillance planes will be sent to Israel to track threats to regional stability.

It comes after he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, where he called on Israel to "protect ordinary Palestinians".

Speaking to broadcasters on Friday, he said the situation on the ground was "complex", but the UK was working to provide support where possible.

Mr Sunak said concerns of civilian casualties in Gaza were "paramount in our minds", adding: "It is something I've discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu myself and underlined with what the secretary of state from the United States and the president have said, that of course Israel should take every possible precaution to protect civilians as they exercise their rightful ability to defend themselves against attacks like this."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcasters that concerns of civilian casualties in Gaza were 'paramount in our minds'

What is the Gaza evacuation warning?

In a warning the Israeli military said it had sent to Gaza City civilians - including through leaflet airdrops - people were told the evacuation order was "for your own safety".

If carried out, that would mean the territory’s entire population cramming into roughly the southern half of the 25-mile long strip.

The UN said it received a separate directive from the Israeli military, giving all 1.1 million civilians of northern Gaza 24 hours to move south.

It added the evacuation warning also applies to all UN staff and to the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken shelter in UN schools and other facilities, since Israel began launching airstrikes.

Israel's military dropped leaflets over Gaza City, telling people to flee into southern Gaza

Any military operation in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas and where the population is densely packed into a 25-mile long stretch of land, would likely bring even higher casualties on both sides.

Why are people being told to flee?

The warnings have been taken as a signal that a ground offensive is imminent, though the Israeli military has not yet confirmed a decision.

Another reason for the pre warning is Hamas militants operate in civilian areas, leading to Israel long accusing them of using Palestinians as human shields.

Israel said it needed to target Hamas’ military infrastructure, much of which is buried deep underground, suggesting they were hiding in tunnels under the city.

Cars clog the road on the way out of Gaza. Credit: AP

Another spokesperson, Jonathan Conricus, said the military would take “extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians” and that residents would be allowed to return when the war is over.

“The camouflage of the terrorists is the civil population,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said at a news conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

He added: “Therefore, we need to separate them. So those who want to save their life, please go south.”

Why is there concern over the evacuation?

Israel has warned Palestinians to get out of northern Gaza before it ramps up its offensive, but the UN has warned them to 'rescind' the order.

The organisation fears the mass exodus would be "impossible" to take place without "devastating humanitarian consequences".

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said: "Moving more than 1 million people across a densely populated warzone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory is under siege, is extremely dangerous – and in some cases, simply not possible. 

"Hospitals in the south of Gaza are already at capacity and will not be able to accept thousands of new patients from the north.

"The health system is on the brink of collapse. Morgues are overflowing; eleven healthcare staff have been killed while on duty; and there have been 34 attacks on health facilities in the past few days."

Hamas has dismissed the evacuation order and called on Palestinians to "remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation", a statement from its authority for refugee affairs said.

The UK Foreign Office, in the wake of the evacuation orders, has told British nationals in northern Gaza to follow the "advice issued by the Israeli authorities" and move south.

Large-scale protests were seen across the Middle East on Friday as Muslims showed their solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

In Iraq's capital, Baghdad, thousands of people gathered after weekly prayers, while rallies were also held in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, amongst other countries.

Iraqis in Baghdad hold a mass rally supporting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Credit: AP

US and Israel working on establishing "safe routes" for Gazans

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the country is working with Israeli officials and international aid organizations “to get aid to civilians in Gaza”.

He also urged Israel to take “every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians, after pledging America will "always be there by your side" after meeting with Mr Netanyahu on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Mr Blinken said: "“We recognise many Palestinian families in Gaza are suffering through no fault of their own, and that Palestinian civilians have lost their lives,” said Blinken at a news conference in Doha, Qatar.

“We mourn the loss of every innocent life — Israeli, Palestinian, Jew, Christian, Muslim, as well civilians of every faith and every nationality — who’ve been killed.

”The US is working with Israel and aid organizations to establish “safe zones” for civilians in Gaza, he added.

“We're working through the details on that, and more to be said in the days ahead, but that's a priority for us.”

His overseas trip continued on Friday and included a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan.

Mr Blinken discussed efforts to "prevent the conflict from widening" with President Abbas as well as expressing condolences for the loss of Palestinian civilian lives, according to a US State Department spokesperson.

Israel's retaliatory airstrikes have killed more than 1,530 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian authorities.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said more than 400,000 people have fled their homes in Gaza, since the fighting started.

ITV News understands that 17 British citizens are currently feared dead or missing in Israel.

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