Israel’s army orders Palestinians to leave Gaza City

The Israeli military has ordered all Palestinians to leave Gaza City and head south, as it presses ahead with a fresh military operation across the north, south and central area of the besieged strip.

Leaflets dropped from the air on Wednesday urged “everyone in Gaza City” to leave and to take “safe routes” south towards Deir el-Balah and az-Zawayda.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry has called on residents in Gaza City to refrain from following Israeli evacuation orders, saying the instructions are a part of the Israeli army’s psychological warfare against Palestinians.

The United Nations noted the latest evacuations “will only fuel mass suffering for Palestinian families, many of whom have been displaced many times”.

“The civilians must be protected,” stressed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

At least 38,295 people have been killed and 88,241 wounded in Israel’s war on Gaza since October, according to Palestinian officials.

The stepped-up Israeli military activity comes as United States, Egyptian and Qatari mediators met with Israeli officials in Qatar’s capital, Doha, for talks seeking a long-elusive ceasefire deal and an exchange of captives held by Hamas for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Hamas officials have raised concerns that heavy Israeli strikes in recent days along the length of the territory could derail the negotiations.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, said on Monday that Israel’s escalating assault has threatened talks at a crucial time and could bring negotiations “back to square one”.

Hamas, however, still wants international mediators to guarantee that truce talks in Doha conclude with a permanent ceasefire. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted he will not agree to any deal forcing Israel to stop its campaign in Gaza without eliminating Hamas.

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