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Israeli military orders the evacuation of Gaza City, an early target of its war with Hamas

Last Updated 6 days by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

The Israeli military urged all Palestinians to leave Gaza City and head south on Wednesday, pressing ahead with a fresh offensive across the north, south and center of the embattled territory that has killed dozens of people over the past 48 hours.

The stepped up military activity came as U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators were meeting with Israeli officials in the Qatari capital, Doha, for talks trying to push through a long-elusive cease-fire deal with Gazas Hamas militant group.

Israel says it is pursuing Hamas fighters regrouping in various parts of Gaza nine months into the militarys devastating offensive. But heavy strikes in recent days along the length of the territory also could be aimed at hiking up pressure on Hamas in the cease-fire talks.

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In a visit to central Gaza on Wednesday, Israels military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said forces were operating in different ways, in multiple parts of the territory to carry out a very important mission: pressure. We will continue operating to bring home the hostages.

Israel informed people in Gaza of the evacuation order by dropping leaflets urging all those in Gaza City to take two safe routes south to the area around the central town of Deir al-Balah. Gaza City, it said, will remain a dangerous combat zone.

Israel ordered residents of northern Gaza, including Gaza City, to flee south months ago as it operated in the area, and much of the population fled earlier in the war. Large parts of Gaza City and urban areas around it have been flattened or left a shattered landscape by previous Israeli assaults.

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The United Nations says about 200,000 Palestinians have remained in the hard-hit north, and many say they have nowhere safe to go. Most of Gazas 2.3 million people are crammed into squalid tent camps in central and southern Gaza.

Israeli ground troops have pushed into parts of Gaza City in recent days, triggering the flight of thousands of Palestinians trying to escape shelling and airstrikes. The past week, the military ordered Palestinians to evacuate from eastern and central parts of the city. There was no immediate mass exodus out of the city following Wednesday’s order. Many Palestinians have concluded that there is no refuge in war-stricken Gaza.

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The evacuation order came after a series of deadly strikes over the past two days in other parts of the territory. Israeli bombardment early Wednesday hit four houses in Deir al-Balah and the nearby Nuseirat refugee camp, killing 20 Palestinians.

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