JERUSALEM (AP) — More than a million people in the northern Gaza Strip have been ordered to evacuate to the south as the latest Israel-Hamas war entered its seventh day Friday and Israel appeared to be preparing a ground offensive. Hamas urged residents to stay put.
The orders sent panic through civilians and aid workers already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade of the Hamas-ruled area. International aid groups warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis after Israel prevented the entry of supplies from Egypt to Gaza’s 2.3 million people.
The latest Israel-Hamas war has claimed more than 3,000 lives on both sides in the week since Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Oct. 7.
Some key takeaways from the war:
An Israeli shell landed in a gathering of international journalists covering clashes on the border in southern Lebanon on Friday, killing a Reuters videographer and leaving six other journalists injured.
Israel has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine into Gaza. The only crossing point between Egypt and Gaza was shut down Tuesday following nearby Israeli airstrikes. Internet connectivity in Gaza City has been below 20% since Tuesday.
With Israel having sealed Gaza’s borders, the only direction to flee is south, toward Egypt. But Israel is still carrying out airstrikes across the Gaza, and Egypt has rushed to secure its border against any mass influx of Palestinians.
Governments around the world have spent the week trying to evacuate their nationals and dual citizens caught in the conflict after a spate of commercial flight cancellations.
Israel’s government is under intense pressure from the public to topple Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists and threatened an unprecedented response to Hamas’ wide-ranging incursion.
The Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that roughly 1,800 people have been killed in the territory. The Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, have been killed in Israel — a staggering toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria that lasted weeks. Roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said.
As airstrikes hammered the territory throughout the day Friday, families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with blankets and possessions streamed down a main road out of Gaza City.
Hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians across the territory wrangled over the agonizing choice of whether to stay or go following the Israeli order to evacuate.
Before the evacuation directives, 423,000 Gaza Strip residents had already fled their homes, according to the United Nations. Gaza is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.
Many Palestinians fear a repeat of the most traumatic event in their tortured history: their mass exodus from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.
Hamas’ media office said warplanes struck cars fleeing south, killing more than 70 people, while Israel’s military said that its troops had conducted temporary raids in Gaza to battle militants. Israel said its soldiers also hunted for traces of some 150 people abducted in Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7.
United States President Joe Biden said Friday that it’s a priority of his administration to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assured Israel that “we have your back” as he and America’s top diplomat met Friday with Israeli and Arab leaders.
The United Nations Security Council hadn’t found a collective voice on the latest Israel-Hamas war after meeting behind closed doors Friday for the second time in five days.
Russia is proposing a “humanitarian cease-fire,” which could be a tough sell as Israel is expected to undertake a ground offensive against the Hamas militants who rule Gaza.
European Union leader Charles Michel on Friday warned that the Israel-Hamas war could create a surge in refugees heading for Europe, raising the risk of spurring on anti-migrant forces, deepening divisions and inflaming tensions between supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestinians.
Iran’s foreign minister warned on Friday that if Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip don’t stop immediately, the violence could spread to other parts of the Middle East.
Syria’s president on Friday called on countries of the world to stand together to stop “the crimes that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people.”
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the Israeli army’s decision to order the evacuation, which could cause a spike in refugees in Egypt.
The deadly attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians and the devastating Israeli airstrikes and blockade of Gaza have raised accusations among international legal experts that both sides were violating international law.
Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, says it is defending Palestinians’ right to freedom and self-determination. But the devastation following Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7 has sharpened questions about its strategy and objectives.
Desperation has grown among Palestinians, many of whom see nothing to lose under unending Israeli control and increasing settlements in the West Bank, the blockade in Gaza, and what they see as the world’s apathy.
In addition to citing long-simmering tensions, Hamas officials cite a long-running dispute over the sensitive Al-Aqsa Mosque that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Competing claims over the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, have spilled into violence before, including a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.
Associated Press Writers Matthew Lee in Washington, Samy Magdy in Cairo and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed to this report.