Israel called on Friday for more than 1 million Gazans to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip ahead of an anticipated ground offensive to destroy Hamas’s terror capabilities.
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters that the evacuation order was meant to limit Palestinian civilian casualties, as the war against Hamas entered its seventh day.
“We are fighting a terror group, not the Gazan population. We don’t want to harm civilians, but we cannot live with Hamas-ISIS rule near our border,” said Hagari on Friday morning.
“Hamas carried out one of the most horrific acts the world has ever seen, we are conducting an effort to evacuate residents to increase our freedom of movement to deepen the damage [to Hamas], to destroy it,” he added.
The IDF spokesman acknowledged that such an evacuation would likely take “several days,” after the United Nations warned the initial deadline of midnight on Saturday would be “impossible” to meet and have “devastating humanitarian consequences.”
“The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded, avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,” said a U.N. official.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan slammed the world body: “The U.N.’s response to Israel’s early warning to the residents of Gaza is a disgrace! For many years, the U.N. turned a blind eye to the arming of Hamas and its use of civilian populations and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip for murder and for stockpiling its weapons.
“Now, instead of standing with Israel whose citizens were slaughtered by Hamas terrorists and which still tries to minimize harm to noncombatants, it preaches specifically to Israel,” continued Erdan.
“It would be better for the U.N. to focus now on returning the captives, condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said.
According to media reports, Hamas was preventing residents of northern Gaza from leaving their homes.
Hagari accused the Palestinian terror group on Friday of risking “disaster” by telling Gazans to ignore IDF recommendations.
“The responsibility for what may happen to those who do not evacuate [the Strip] is on Hamas’s head,” he said.
An IDF ground invasion would likely begin in northern Gaza to decimate Hamas’s capacity to fire short-range rockets at nearby Israeli communities.
‘Now is the time for war’
Hagari added that the military was still focusing its efforts on killing senior Hamas leaders, adding that the vast majority of the estimated 2,500 terrorists who perpetrated the Oct. 7 cross-border raid and massacre of 1,300 Israelis were already dead.
Meanwhile, the IDF was continuing to pummel Hamas terror assets in Gaza, conducting some 750 strikes in the Strip overnight on Thursday.
Since the operation began, the IDF has hit about 3,500 sites in the Palestinian enclave, including nearly 150 command centers, scores of underground facilities and more than a dozen multi-story towers used by Hamas to direct its terror war against the Jewish state.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi conceded on Thursday that the army had failed to protect Israel’s citizens and adequately guard the border fence with Gaza.
“The IDF is responsible for the security of the country and its citizens, and on Saturday morning in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, we did not do it. We will learn. We will investigate. But now is the time for war,” the general said.
Halevi said the enemy are “murderous terrorists, human animals.” (On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office released pictures from the aftermath of babies burned alive by Hamas.)
The IDF chief promised that Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, and “the entire system under him are dead men. We will attack them. We will dismantle them.”
Halevi expressed sympathy for families whose loved ones were captured by the terrorists and pulled into Gaza. “We will do everything to return the hostages back home,” he promised.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim to be holding 130 hostages.
‘Hamas is ISIS’
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday shared uncensored footage of Hamas atrocities from Saturday’s rampage during a video briefing to NATO defense ministers.
“We have been hit hard. Yet make no mistake—2023 is not 1943. We are the same Jews, but we have different capabilities. The State of Israel is strong. We are united and powerful,” the minister told 31 of his counterparts, who were gathered for a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“I walked from house to house. And saw the bodies of our pioneers, the Holocaust survivors, burned alive. Children were tied up and shot. Yes, I repeat—children tied up and shot,” Gallant continued.
“Young girls were raped, and kidnapped or killed. They were dragged to Gaza, to the sound of cheering, while blood was dripping down their legs,” he said. “A peace music festival, with 3,000 young people, became a bloodbath. Dozens of citizens from your countries have been murdered or kidnapped.”
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for Washington’s “incredible” support for Israel “in our war against the barbarians of Hamas.”
The presser followed a private meeting between the two men at IDF headquarters. “We are here, we are not going anywhere,” Blinken told Netanyahu as the meeting got underway.
“Mr. Secretary, your visit is another tangible example of America’s unequivocal support for Israel,” the prime minister said.
“Hamas has shown itself to be an enemy of civilization. President [Joe] Biden was absolutely correct in calling this sheer evil. Hamas is ISIS. And just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed,” said Netanyahu.