Palestinians running out of places to flee as Israel expands ground operation

The northern part of the Gaza Strip has been cut off from aid as Israel expands its military operation, ITV News Correspondent John Irvine reports

  • Israel has told residents to evacuate as forces pounded targets in crowded southern Gaza on Sunday.

  • Israel military says it hit hundreds of Hamas targets and has destroyed about 500 tunnel shafts in Gaza.

  • The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 15,800, the Hamas-run health ministry said, with 70% reported to be women and children.

  • Ceasefire talks have collapsed after Israel pulled its negotiators from Qatar, blaming Hamas for not fulfilling 'its part in the agreement'.

The Israeli military has renewed calls for people to flee from southern Gaza as it widens its ground offensive and bombards targets across the Gaza Strip.

Mass evacuations have been ordered from the town of Khan Younis, where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in recent weeks.

But fears are mounting over where civilians are to go, with the UN estimating that up to 1.8 million people in Gaza are internally displaced, having already had to leave their homes.

Following the collapse of a weeklong ceasefire, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has expanded its ground operation, claiming to have hit 200 Gaza targets that contained "terror infrastructure".

ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo spoke to a father of one of the five babies who died in their beds when a hospital in Gaza was evacuated

This video contains distressing images

"The IDF is resuming and expanding the ground operation against Hamas’ strongholds across the whole Gaza Strip," IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari told a news conference.

"Our policy is clear - we will forcefully strike any threat posed against our territory."

Evacuation warning

Residents said they heard airstrikes and explosions in and around Khan Younis overnight and into Monday after the military dropped leaflets warning people to relocate further south toward the border with Egypt.

In an Arabic language post on social media early Monday, the military again ordered the evacuation of nearly two dozen neighborhoods in and around Khan Younis.

However, despite being told to move further south, both Egypt and Israel have said they are refusing to accept any refugees.

The ground offensive has already transformed much of the north, including large parts of Gaza City, into a rubble-filled wasteland. There are fears that the south could share in the same fate and be rendered uninhabitable - as reports come in that around 2 million people are crowded into a 90 square mile space in south Gaza.

Mark Regev, a senior advisor to Netanyahu, said Israel was making “maximum effort" to protect civilians and the military has used leaflets, phone calls, and radio and TV broadcasts to urge Gazans to move from specific areas.

Israel says it targets Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighbourhoods.

It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence. Israel says 77 of its soldiers have been killed in the offensive in northern Gaza.

The October 7 attack by Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel. Around 240 people were taken captive.

The renewed hostilities have heightened concerns for 137 hostages, who the Israeli military says are still being held after 105 were freed during the ceasefire.

A 70-year-old woman held by Hamas was declared dead on Saturday, according to her kibbutz. She is the eighth hostage known to have died.

During the ceasefire, Israel freed 240 Palestinians. Most of those released by both sides were women and children.

The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 15,800, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Sunday. Credit: AP

International pressure

US officials have been pressing Israel to avoid more mass displacements and the killing of civilians.

Speaking at COP28, Vice President Kamala Harris said: “As Israel defends itself, it matters how. The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.’’

However, it is unclear how far the Biden administration will go in pressing Israel to dial down their offensive action in Gaza.

It comes after Israel rejected US suggestions that control of postwar Gaza be handed to the Palestinian Authority as part of efforts to resolve the overall conflict by establishing a Palestinian state.

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