Israeli forces to Palestinians: Don’t return to northern gaza

DISPLACED Palestinians try to walk back from central Gaza Strip to northern Gaza Strip Sunday, April 14, 2024. /
DISPLACED Palestinians try to walk back from central Gaza Strip to northern Gaza Strip Sunday, April 14, 2024. / AP

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military renewed warnings on Monday for Palestinians not to return to northern Gaza, a day after witnesses and medical officials said Israeli troops opened fire and killed five people among throngs of displaced residents trying to walk back to their homes in the devastated area.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from the north after Israeli forces first launched their offensive there soon after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. In the months of fighting since, vast parts of the north have been flattened, including much of Gaza City. After months of Israeli restrictions on aid to the north, some 300,000 who remained there are on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.

Still, many Palestinians have wanted to go back, saying they are sick of the conditions they endured in displacement. For months, families have been crammed into tent camps, schools-turned-shelters and homes of relatives throughout the south of the Gaza Strip. Some also fear remaining in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town, as Israel says it plans to attack it eventually to root out Hamas.

Rafah invasion

Late Monday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with top officials to work on preparations for the Rafah invasion, his office said. The international community, including the United States, have voiced strong objections to the planned offensive, saying it will endanger the estimated 1.4 million Palestinians sheltered in Rafah.

Gallant’s office said Monday’s meeting included plans for evacuating civilians and expanding deliveries of food and medical equipment to Gaza.

Israel, which has reduced the number of its troops across Gaza, has repeatedly rejected calls to let Palestinians back to the north of the territory, saying Hamas militants continue to operate there.

The military says it has loosened the militants’ control over the north, but it is still carrying out airstrikes and raids against what it says are reorganizing militants. Last month, Israeli troops raided Gaza’s main hospital, Shifa, in two weeks of fighting that left the facility in ruins.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Palestinians should stay in southern Gaza because the north is a “dangerous combat zone.” People appeared to be heeding the new warning, especially after Sunday’s shootings.

On Sunday, thousands of Palestinians tried going up Gaza’s coastal road back to the north, most on foot and some on the backs of donkey carts. Some said they had heard rumors that Israeli troops were allowing people to enter the north.

“We want our homes. We want our lives. We want to return, whether with a truce or without a truce,” said Um Nidhal Khatab, who was among those trying to return home.

Several witnesses said Israeli troops opened fire as the crowds neared checkpoints at Wadi Gaza, the line that the military has drawn separating northern Gaza from the rest of the territory. Five people were killed and 54 wounded, according to officials at nearby Awda Hospital in central Gaza, where the casualties were brought.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment. It was not clear what triggered the shooting. / AP


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