Oct 13 (Reuters) – Mosques broadcast messages telling Gaza Strip residents to stay put on Friday, in defiance of an Israeli military call for more than a million civilians to move south within 24 hours in the build-up to its expected ground offensive.
Leaders of the enclave’s governing militant group Hamas also urged Palestinians to ignore the call, and by Friday afternoon there were no signs of any mass exodus from the north of the enclave.
Any incursion into the densely populated territory would be a pivotal moment in Israel’s war with Hamas, which on Saturday launched the bloodiest attack on the country since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Israel has already mounted the heaviest air strikes on Gaza ever, and has mobilised 300,000 reservists and amassed tanks near the border in response to the Hamas assault.
In Gaza, the threats of a ground invasion conjured up images of the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe that refers to the 1948 war of Israel’s creation that led to their mass dispossession.
Gaza analyst Talal Okal described the Israeli relocation order as an “attempt to push the Palestinian people of Gaza into Nakba”.
“Like they did in 1948 when they pushed people out of historical Palestine by dropping barrels of explosives on their heads, today Israel is repeating this before the eyes of the world and live cameras,” Okal told Reuters.
The Israeli military told the civilians of Gaza City to “evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields.”
In Gaza, mosques broadcast the message: “Hold on to your homes. Hold on to your land.”
‘WE WILL NOT LEAVE’
In Gaza’s Shifa hospital, a man arrived to check on dozens of relatives and friends who have been brought from the site of a residential building Israel bombed in Beach refugee camp.
“I survived, I don’t know why I survived. It is so that I tell the enemy, America, Europe and the world that this Palestinian people will not be defeated,” the man cried toward reporters.
“They think there will be another displacement, or that we may go Egypt. Nonsense,” he said before going into the morgue to try and identify dead relatives.
Well-Known Gaza Hamas cleric Wael Al-Zard was also killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza, Hamas said. His son was killed a few weeks ago during border protests along the fence.
Gaza, a tiny coastal strip of land wedged between Israel in the north and east and Egypt to the southwest, is home to some 2.3 million people who have been living under a blockade since Hamas took control there in 2007.
Even if its residents wanted to flee the enclave altogether, they have nowhere to go as the most obvious exit would be through Egypt, something Cairo rejects.
Egypt has discussed plans with the United States and others to provide humanitarian aid through its border, but rejects any move to set up safe corridors for refugees fleeing the enclave, Egyptian security sources said.
Cairo, a frequent mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, always insists the two sides resolve conflicts within their borders, saying this is the only way Palestinians can secure their right to statehood.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said at a military academy that: “This is the cause of all causes, the cause of all Arabs. It is important that the (Palestinian) people remain steadfast and present on their land. We will expend all efforts to alleviate (the burden) on them.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman that he “rejects the forced displacement” of Palestinians in Gaza, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
He said such an event would constitute a “second Nakba”.
Eyad Al-Bozom, spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry, urged Arabs everywhere and especially in countries that have borders with Israel to support the people of Gaza.
“We tell the people of northern Gaza and from Gaza City, stay put in your homes, and your places. By carrying out massacres against the civilians, the occupation wants to displace us once again from our land,” he told a news conference.
The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency on Friday described the Israeli military call for mass movement as “horrendous” and said the enclave was rapidly becoming a “hell hole”.
The agency said it was moving staff south to keep up its work. Thirteen-year-old Azmi Diab, who was getting ready to move with his mother, a U.N. staffer, said he was also bringing his pet bird.
“I raised him, so I brought him to hide him from the bombardment, so he doesn’t die. It was small and we grew up together,” Diab told Reuters.
Source : reuters