UN says Gaza evacuation 'impossible' in 24 hours - What is the route from north to south?

ITV News' Rebecca Barry explains the treacherous journey over one million people are expected to make under a 24 hour countdown

Civilians living in the north of the Gaza Strip - one of the most densely populated places on Earth - have been told by the Israeli military to evacuate within 24 hours for their protection.

The mass evacuation order would be a mammoth task in any circumstances, but low fuel supplies and road blockages caused by airstrikes have escalated the problem.

United Nations (UN) spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the organisation "considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences".

Where are Palestinians being told to go, and why has the evacuation order been described as "impossible" and "calamitous" by the UN?

Gaza is a narrow strip of land bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, and a perimeter fence alongside Israel and Egypt.

There is just one main road running north to south of the Gaza Strip. Credit: ITV News

It is 25 miles long - almost the length of a marathon - and has a total population of 2.2 million people.

Israel has ordered almost half of the population, an estimated 1.1 million people, who live in the densely populated northern part of the territory to move south of the river valley for their "safety".

The message of the evacuation was delivered via leaflets dropped by Israeli aircrafts, which depicted a simplified diagram of Gaza and arrows pointing from the north to south.

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

It is feared Israeli forces could begin a ground offensive once the countdown has ended.

However, there is just one main road running north to south.

And the journey is treacherous, with widespread damage from bombings to navigate, a shortage of fuel for vehicles after Israel cut off supplies earlier this week, and only one major road bridge across to the south.

Meanwhile, communication in Gaza is limited with power and internet scarce making it difficult to contact loved ones.

The evacuation area also covers a number of hospitals, including Gaza's largest Al-Shifa hospital where patients remain in intensive care and babies in neonatal units waiting to be moved.

A mother comforts her son as he rests at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City after suffering wounds during an air strike Credit: AP

An estimated 270,000 people are taking shelter in more than 90 schools and buildings that the UN runs throughout Gaza, with the body calling for Israel to not target them.

For those hoping to leave Gaza altogether, the only exit point not controlled by Israel is the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

But in the past, Egypt has restricted the entry of Gazans and the crossing is currently closed after Israel carried out an airstrike earlier this week, saying it was targeting a tunnel used for smuggling weapons into Gaza.

Hamas describes this as "coerced displacement", while Israel insists it's trying to protect innocent civilians.

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