Israel-Hamas war latest: Israel tells north Gaza residents to evacuate with ground invasion expected

In a briefing early Saturday morning, an Israeli military spokesperson hinted that Israeli soldiers are preparing for a possible ground incursion into Gaza.

“Around the Gaza Strip, as have been for many days, are Israeli reserve soldiers in formation, that are getting ready for the next stage of operations,” Israel Defense Forces international spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a video. “They are all around the Gaza Strip. In the south, in the center, and in the north. And they are preparing themselves for whatever target they will get, whatever task.”

Israeli defense officials said Friday that ground forces have launched raids into Gaza for the first time since the Hamas invasion, hunting for militants and the more than 120 hostages they are holding.    

Earlier this week, Israel said that it had deployed about 300,000 soldiers to the border with Gaza. Israel late Thursday and early Friday issued evacuation orders to the approximately 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza, warning them to leave evacuate south, with tens of thousands appearing to heed that call.

That order, however, prompted criticism from the United Nations, which said it was “impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences.”

“We advertised our intentions in advance, not because it has any military logic, it doesn’t,” Conricus said Saturday. “Because we want civilians not to be affected by the war … We are not trying to kill or injure any civilians, we are fighting against Hamas.”

He said there has been “a significant movement of Palestinian civilians towards the south,” since the order was issued.

Since the Hamas invasion, Israel has issued a complete blockade on Gaza, with no food, water, gas, medicine or electricity allowed in, putting the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. 

At least 423,000 Palestinians have been displaced since the conflict began Oct. 7, the U.N. reported Friday. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Saturday also called for a “pause in the fighting” in order for humanitarian groups to go into Gaza and provide aid to Palestinians.

“With a military siege in place, humanitarian organizations including the ICRC will not be able to assist such a massive displacement of people in Gaza,” the group said. “The needs are staggering, and humanitarian organizations must be able to increase aid operations.”

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