Palestinians flee as Israeli forces go back into Jabalia


GAZA – Fierce fighting has been reported in Jabalia in northern Gaza, after the Israeli military went back into areas where it said Hamas had regrouped.

Residents who fled said they had seen tanks advancing towards Jabalia’s refugee camp, which has come under heavy bombardment since last Saturday. Hamas’s military wing also said it was battling troops east of the camp.

Meanwhile, the UN has said 360,000 people have fled Rafah, in the south, since an offensive began a week ago.

The Israeli military has ordered the evacuation of the eastern third of the city, which is swollen with more than a million Palestinians taking refuge. Those now displaced by the fighting around Rafah have been told to head towards the nearby coastal area of al-Mawasi and the city of Khan Younis, but the UN has warned that they lack basic services to support them.

Women who were filmed fleeing Jabalia on foot yesterday morning said they had decided to leave after seeing tanks advance into the area. “The tank was behind the school classrooms,” Umm Jumma told Reuters news agency. “We did not want to leave until we saw it with our own eyes.” Another woman said: “We have been displaced from one place to the next. And now we have left. We don’t know where to go.”

Hamas-affiliated Safa news agency reported clashes between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli tanks east of Jabalia camp’s market, near several UN-run schools which were being used as shelters by civilians.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa meanwhile reported that two people were killed in Israeli strikes on homes in Jabalia camp yesterday and that a number of other people were killed in a strike in Jabalia town. It also cited ambulance crews as saying the bodies of 20 civilians had so far been recovered in Jabalia and taken to Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia. There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Last Sunday, the IDF said troops had begun an operation in Jabalia the previous evening that was “based on intelligence information regarding attempts by Hamas to reassemble its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area”. Civilians there had been told to evacuate temporarily to “shelters in western Gaza City”, it added. The IDF also said on Sunday that it was operating in the Zeitoun area, in eastern Gaza City, to “eliminate terrorists and dismantle terrorist infrastructure”. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, said the bombardment and evacuation orders had “created more displacement and fear for thousands of families” in northern Gaza. Safa reported that Zeitoun was hit by Israeli shellfire on Monday morning. In a statement issued last Sunday, Hamas accused Israel of “escalating their brutal massacres in various areas of the Gaza Strip”.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.