Israel orders Palestinians to leave Khan Younis after rockets fired

Israel’s military has ordered a mass evacuation of Palestinians from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, hinting at a possible new ground assault following a rocket barrage from the area.

The evacuation order covers the eastern half of Khan Younis as well as a large part of Gaza’s southeastern corner.

“For your safety, you must evacuate immediately to the humanitarian zone,” Army spokesperson Avichay Adraee told residents in a post on X.

Palestinians in the area also reported receiving evacuation orders through audio messages from Israeli numbers. ​​“We received a message on our mobile phones” to evacuate, a displaced woman identified as Zeinab Abu Jazar was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “Look at these children, how they walk. We did not find a car to ride in.”

Khan Younis was destroyed in an Israeli assault earlier this year, but large numbers of Palestinians had moved back to escape another offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres criticised the evacuation order and said it “just shows yet again that no place is safe in Gaza” for Palestinian civilians.

“It’s another stop in this deadly circular movement that the population in Gaza has to undergo on a regular basis,” he said in a statement.

Al Jazeera reported the Israeli army as claiming that the evacuation order did not apply to the European Hospital in Khan Younis. But the Palestine Red Crescent Society said patients were being transferred to nearby hospitals after Israel ordered the evacuation of the east of the city.

The military asked people fleeing Khan Younis to head to “al-Mawasi humanitarian zone”, a coastal area which has become filled with crowded and unsanitary tent camps.

The Israeli military attacked al-Mawasi on 28 May and killed 21 people. They struck the camp again on 21 June and killed at least 25 people, according to Gaza officials.

Israel killed nearly 37,900 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, in retaliation for the 7 October attack by the militants on southern Israel during which around 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage.

The evacuation order came after Israel released the head of Gaza’s main hospital, seven months after the military raided the facility over allegations, as yet unproven, that it was being used as a Hamas command centre.

Additional reporting by agencies.