03 July 2024

Strike kills family as Israeli military orders evacuation of southern Gaza city

03 July 2024

An Israeli airstrike killed a prominent Palestinian doctor and eight members of his extended family on Tuesday after they complied with military orders to evacuate their home and moved into an Israeli-designated safe zone.

The Hamdan family — around a dozen people from three generations — fled their home in the middle of the night after the Israeli military ordered an evacuation from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.

They found refuge with extended relatives in a building further north, inside an Israeli-declared safe zone. But hours after they arrived, an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday hit the building in the town of Deir al-Balah, killing nine members of the family and three others.

In all, five children and three women were among the dead, according to hospital records and a relative who survived.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the strike.

Israel’s order on Monday for people to leave the eastern half of Khan Younis — the territory’s second-largest city — has triggered the third mass flight of Palestinians in as many months, throwing the population deeper into confusion, chaos and misery as they scramble once again to find safety.

About 250,000 people live in the area covered by the order, according to the United Nations. Many of them had just returned to their homes there after fleeing Israel’s invasion of Khan Younis earlier this year — or had just taken refuge there after escaping Israel’s offensive in the city of Rafah, further south.

The order also prompted a frantic flight from European General Hospital, Gaza’s second-largest hospital, located in the evacuation area.

The facility shut down after staffers and more than 200 patients were evacuated overnight and on Tuesday, along with thousands of displaced who had sheltered on the hospital grounds, according to the staff and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which had a medical team there.

Hisham Mhanna, the ICRC spokesperson in Gaza, said some families dragged patients in their hospital beds through the streets for up to 10km (6 miles) to reach safety. Ambulances moved others elsewhere as staff rushed out valuable equipment, including X-ray and ultrasound machines and endoscopy devices now so scarce, said a nurse, Muhammad Younis.

Hours after ordering the evacuation, the Israeli military said the hospital was not included in that order. But the staff said they feared a repeat of previous Israeli raids on other Gaza hospitals.

“Many hospitals have come to rubble and have been turned into battlefields or graveyards,” Mr Mhanna said.

Israel has raided hospitals, saying Hamas uses them for military purposes, a claim Gaza’s medical officials deny.

On Tuesday, cars loaded with personal belongings streamed out of eastern Khan Younis, though the number of those fleeing was not immediately known. The new exodus comes on top of the 1 million people who fled Rafah since May, as well as tens of thousands who were displaced the past week from a new Israeli offensive in the Shijaiyah district of northern Gaza.

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip flee from parts of Khan Younis following an evacuation order by the Israeli army (Saher Alghorra/AP) (AP)

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