Palestinians flee Khan Younis as Israel says 1.9 million are crammed in central Gaza

Palestinians flee Khan Younis as Israel says 1.9 million are crammed in central Gaza

Palestinians are streaming out of eastern Khan Younis, the second-largest city in Gaza, as an Israeli evacuation order affects roughly 250,000 people, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Israel’s military estimated that around 1.9 million people — more than 80% of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — are now clustered into the territory’s central region.

Although the exact number of people fleeing Khan Younis was not immediately known, Sigrid Kaag, the top U.N. humanitarian official for Gaza, said there are around 1.9 million displaced people in Gaza. She said civilians in the besieged territory have been pushed “into an abyss of suffering.”

Evacuees have been told by Israel to seek refuge in an overcrowded coastal area where there are few basic services and which is filled with sprawling tent camps. The war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and goods to Gaza, and people are totally dependent on humanitarian aid. The top U.N. court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

On Monday, Israel’s military instructed Palestinians to evacuate a wide swath of Khan Younis and nearby areas, and go to the Israeli-declared safe zone. This suggests Israel will launch a new ground assault into the city.

However, an Israeli strike inside the safe zone Tuesday killed at least 12 people, including nine members of the same family. Some of the dead had just fled Khan Younis hours earlier, said Asmaa Salim, a relative who lived in the targeted house in Deir al-Balah. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the strike.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250, some of whom are still being held.

Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,900 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

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