TOM UTLEY: Who wants to live to 150 in this mad world in which killjoys seek to ban all pleasure and police our thoughts? Cherry…
As Gaza was last night braced for invasion with an Israeli military deadline to clear the north of the territory closing in, fears were growing for the lives of innocents still trapped in the area.
Aid agencies said the unprecedented attempted evacuation of 1.1 million Palestinians from the north toward the southern part of the besieged territory was “impossible.”
They explained how the area included sprawling refugee camps containing tens of thousands who have already fled from crisis.
The UN urged Israel to withdraw the evacuation order and the World Health Organisation said evacuating the seriously ill and those with severe injuries would amount to a “death sentence.”
Israel acknowledged Saturday’s deadline for the mass evacuation was unrealistic but continued to mass its soldiers and tanks close to the border with Gaza while Hamas dismissed it and called on people to stay in their homes.
One week after hundreds were slaughtered in a cross-border Hamas murder spree, Israeli top brass gave the strongest hint yet that a land, sea and air bombardment is just hours away.
READ MORE: Inside Hamas’ secret underground tunnels where militants plan attacks in Israel
But revenge has left those under the rule of the Sunni Islamist organisation governing the territory with nowhere to go with many facing a certain death.
Amitabh Behar, director of British aid charity Oxfam, said: “The world can see this evacuation order is both utterly inhumane and impossible; the Israeli government must rescind it immediately.”
The leave directive – issued by The Israel Defence Forces today – suggests strikes will start imminently.
Israel has international backing for the right to defend itself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to turn “all the places in which Hamas is deployed, hiding and operating to rubble”.
A day after Saturday’s massacre he warned: “I say to the residents of Gaza: Leave now because we will operate forcefully everywhere.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today begged Mr Netanyahu to “take all possible measures” to “protect ordinary Palestinians” and facilitate humanitarian aid as it hunts Hamas.
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Sunak had reiterated to his Israeli counterpart “the UK stands side by side with Israel in fighting terror”, adding Hamas should “never again be able to perpetrate atrocities against the Jewish people”.
The IDF, the state’s national military, released a series of distressing statistics claiming more than 1,300 of its people had been killed and 3,200 injured.
The IDF said 120 hostage families had been notified, giving the clearest sign yet of the numbers seized and taken across the border by rampaging terrorists.
It said 2,687 targets had been struck in Gaza, while 6,000 rockets had been fired from the province into Israel.
The IDF called for the evacuation of all civilians in Gaza City and to head south “for their own safety and protection” and dropped leaflets written in Arabic into Gaza telling more than 1 million to flee northern areas. It later said Hamas ordered residents to ignore the diktat.
It came as Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim “Party of God” militant group wielding political power in Lebanon and backed by Iran, said it is” fully prepared” to join Hamas in its bloody war.
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Palestinian-American trapped in Gaza with 24 hours to flee makes dramatic plea[WORLD]
Expert warns of ‘Israel-Iran war’ as Gaza invasion risks ‘escalation spiral'[WORLD]
Hamas ‘stops civilians leaving’ after Israel warned they have 24 hours to flee[WORLD]
The dramatic move and the emergence of a new “axis of evil”, has all but confirmed fears a significant escalation in hostilities is near.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps reiterated that Israel has a “right to go after Hamas”, but conceded it is “highly likely” UK nationals are among those being held as used as human shields. Thirteen hostages being held have so far been killed in Israeli strikes, Hamas claimed.
The United Nations has said it is “impossible” for Palestinians to move south after officials were told the entire population north of Wadi Gaza should relocate.
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “This amounts to approximately 1.1 million people. The UN considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences.”
It appealed for the order to be rescinded to avoid turning “what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation”.
Mr Behar said: “We implore the international community to use its utmost influence to intervene – there are hospitals full of patients, women, children and elderly people who cannot move. Even for those who could move, there is no food, no water and little shelter. This must be stopped.
“Oxfam staff are sending us terrifying messages; they are sheltering in their homes or displaced with their extended families, some trying to find safety in hospitals that have already been damaged by air strikes.
“They are in darkness, pleading to know what is happening. One message told us ‘Please pray for us, and forgive us if we don’t end up making it through this tough time’.
“It is incumbent upon Israel to obey international humanitarian law; they must distinguish between military and civilian targets. We call on it to immediately recall this order and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.”
The World Health Organisation said local health authorities in Gaza said it was impossible to evacuate vulnerable hospital patients from northern Gaza so quickly.
Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: “There are severely ill people whose injuries mean their only chances of survival is being on life support, such as mechanical ventilators so moving those people is a death sentence. Asking health workers to do so is beyond cruel.”
In its warning IDF said: “Hamas waged a war against the State of Israel and Gaza City is an area where military operations take place. This evacuation is for your own safety.
“You will be able to return to Gaza City only when another announcement permitting it is made. Do not approach the area of the security fence with the State of Israel.
“Hamas terrorists are hiding in Gaza City inside tunnels underneath houses and inside buildings populated with innocent Gazan civilians.
“Civilians of Gaza City, evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields.
“In the following days, the IDF will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians.”
Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander who headed the British Army in Afghanistan in 2003, said: “There will be reverberations across the region. Iran, which trains, funds, arms and directs Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, has sworn to annihilate the Jewish State, is undoubtedly behind this aggression.”
He added: “When Israel launches a ground offensive, it will be very bloody. The whole of Gaza will have been sewn with explosive booby traps, ambushes and snipers, in open country, in houses, apartment blocks, mosques, schools and hospitals. It is likely large numbers of Israeli soldiers will die or be seriously wounded. “Undoubtedly, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists will be killed in much larger numbers. But many civilians are also likely to die, given the terrorists’ habitual use of human shields.”
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