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Israel orders mass evacuations as it widens offensive across Gaza Strip

The Israeli military has widened its ground offensive and bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip (Hatem Ali/AP)
The Israeli military has widened its ground offensive and bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip (Hatem Ali/AP) The Israeli military has widened its ground offensive and bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip (Hatem Ali/AP)

The Israeli military has renewed its calls for mass evacuations from the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in recent weeks, as it widened its ground offensive and bombarded targets across the territory.

The expanded offensive, following the collapse of a week-long ceasefire, is aimed at eliminating Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whose October 7 attack on Israel triggered the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades.

The war has already killed thousands of Palestinians and displaced more than three-quarters of the territory’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians, who are running out of safe places to go.

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Israel Palestinians Palestinians inspect a damaged building following Israeli air strikes on the town of Khan Younis (Fatima Shbair/AP)

Already under mounting pressure from its top ally, the United States, Israel appears to be racing to strike a death blow against Hamas – if that is even possible, given the group’s deep roots in Palestinian society – before another ceasefire.

But the mounting toll from the fighting, which Palestinian health officials say has killed several hundred civilians since the truce ended on Friday, further increases pressure to return to the negotiating table.

It could also render even larger parts of the isolated territory uninhabitable.

The ground offensive has transformed much of the north, including large parts of Gaza City, into a rubble-filled wasteland.

Hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge in the south, which could meet the same fate, and both Israel and neighbouring Egypt have refused to accept any refugees.

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Israel Palestinians A Palestinian woman inspects a damaged house following Israeli air strikes on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip (Fatima Shbair/AP)

Residents said they heard air strikes and explosions in and around Khan Younis overnight and into Monday after the military dropped leaflets warning people to relocate further south towards the border with Egypt.

In an Arabic language post on social media early on Monday, the military again ordered the evacuation of nearly two dozen neighbourhoods in and around Khan Younis.

Halima Abdel-Rahman, a widow and mother of four, said she has stopped heeding such orders. She fled her home in October to an area outside Khan Younis, where she stays with relatives.

“The (Israeli) occupation tells you to go to this area, then they bomb it,” she said. “The reality is that no place is safe in Gaza. They kill people in the north. They kill people in the south.”