Israel orders evacuations as offensive widens


GAZA: Israel’s military has ordered the evacuation of a fifth of the main city in southern Gaza, as it expands its ground offensive against Hamas.

A map showed six northern and central areas of Khan Younis where an estimated 167,000 people needed to leave.

Witnesses also reported seeing tanks to the east, and a doctor said a local hospital was overwhelmed by casualties.

In Gaza City, an unconfirmed report says 50 people were killed when Israeli air strikes hit two schools.

According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, they died in schools sheltering displaced people in the city’s Daraj neighbourhood.

Reuters news agency has said that the strikes are still to be independently verified and that the Hamas-run health ministry could not be reached for comment. The Israeli army said it was looking into the report.

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Many of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are sheltering in the south after being previously ordered to leave the north.

The Israeli military said it would operate with “maximum force” in the south, as it had done in the north – where there has been widespread destruction over the past eight weeks.

Israel launched a full-scale campaign in Gaza in response to an unprecedented cross-border attack by Hamas gunmen on 7 October, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and about 240 others taken hostage.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says almost 15,900 people have been killed in the territory since the war began, while the UN says a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding.

A temporary ceasefire that lasted for seven days, which led to the release of 105 of the hostages and 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, fell apart on Friday.

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