Israel-Gaza conflict has entered the 7th day with Israeli army ordering the evacuation of 1.1 million people in northern Gaza on Friday. Israel's army called for all Gaza City residents to evacuate their homes and head south of the territory "for their safety".
'For their own safety'
"The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) calls for the evacuation of all civilians of Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza as shown on the map," the army said in a statement.
The order could signal an impending ground offensive, though the military said Thursday that while it was preparing, a decision had not yet been made.
The Israeli military pulverized the Hamas -ruled Gaza Strip with airstrikes and kept blocking deliveries of food, water, fuel and electricity ahead of a possible ground invasion as Palestinians tried to stock up on supplies. Israel said nothing would be allowed into Gaza until the release of around 150 hostages taken captive by Hamas during an unprecedented surprise attack Saturday into Israel that also left hundreds killed.
Follow the latest updates here:
Gaza offensive in early stages: Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas as the army prepares for an expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu delivered the threat in a nationally televised address late Friday.
“This is just the beginning,” Netanyahu said. “We will end this war stronger than ever.”
“We will destroy Hamas,” he added, saying Israel has widespread international support for the operation.
Addressing humanitarian crisis a priority: Biden
US President Joe Biden said that addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was a "priority."
"We can't lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas and Hamas's appalling attacks, and they're suffering as a result as well," Biden said during a speech in Philadelphia.
Saudi condemns displacement, attacks on civilians
Saudi Arabia denounced the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and attacks on "defenceless civilians", its strongest language criticising Israel since the war broke out.
Riyadh "affirms its categorical rejection of calls for the forced displacement of the Palestinian people from Gaza, and its condemnation of the continued targeting of defenceless civilians there," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Israel shells south Lebanon
Israel shelled a border region in southern Lebanon, two Lebanese security sources said, after a blast occurred on the border fence, according to the Israeli army.
One of the security sources said the shelling followed an infiltration attempt from the Lebanese side of the border, while the Israeli army said it was responding to a blast that caused "light damage" to the border barrier.
"IDF (army) forces are currently responding with artillery fire towards Lebanese territory," the Israeli military said in a statement.
The Israeli shelling targeted the villages of Dhayra and Alma Al-Shaab, AFP correspondents in the area said.
Vatican offers to mediate
The Vatican offered to mediate any possible truce between Israel and Hamas while acknowledging there is “little room” for dialogue between them.
The Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself following the Hamas attack last weekend. But in an interview with the Holy See’s in-house media, Parolin said “even legitimate defense must respect the parameter of proportionality.”
Israel denies usage of white phosphorus
The Israeli military denied accusations that it has used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza, after Human Rights Watch published a report alleging that Israel had deployed it several times in the recent Israel-Hamas war.
“The current accusation made against the IDF is unequivocally false,” a statement from the military said. “The IDF has not deployed the use of such munitions.”
UN aid chief criticises evacuation order
Martin Griffiths, the United Nations undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, publicly criticised Israel’s evacuation order, suggesting that it was completely unviable.
“How are 1.1 million people supposed to move across a densely populated warzone in less than 24 hours?” he wrote on the platform X. “The noose around the civilian population in Gaza is tightening.”
Israel supports 'safe areas' for civilians
Israel supports setting up "safe areas" for civilians in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected major offensive, a senior US official said on Friday.
The United States and Israel discussed "the need to establish some safe areas where civilians could relocate, be safe from Israel's legitimate security operations", said the official, a day after talks in Tel Aviv.
"We have been engaged with the ICRC (Red Cross), with the UN relief agencies, to work through the details on what that might look like."
Civilian toll would be unacceptable: Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza would result in a level of civilian casualties that would be "absolutely unacceptable".
Putin said that using heavy weaponry in residential areas was "fraught with serious consequences for all sides".
"And most importantly, the civilian casualties will be absolutely unacceptable. Now the main thing is to stop the bloodshed," he said, speaking at a summit in Kyrgyzstan with other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
Putin said, however, that Israel had the right to defend itself after being subjected to "an attack unprecedented in its cruelty".
UN officials working in Gaza were informed by the Israeli military "that the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general told AFP, adding that this amounts to approximately 1.1 million people.
Dujarric said the same order applied to all UN staff and those sheltered in UN facilities - including schools, health centers and clinics.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) is sheltering more than 60 percent of the 423,000 people displaced in recent days in the Gaza Strip.
It was not immediately clear how many people were currently located north of Wadi Gaza.
"The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences," Dujarric said.
"The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation."
Blinken vows American support for Israel
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed American support for Israel Thursday in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
International aid groups warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis after Israel prevented entry of supplies from Egypt to Gaza’s 2.3 million people. The Israel-Hamas war has claimed at least 2,800 lives on both sides.
Here are some key takeaways from the war so far:
What is the situation in Gaza?
The Israeli military is retaliating for the Hamas attack with near-constant airstrikes, forcing 423,000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
Most have crowded into UN schools. Others have sought the shrinking number of safe neighborhoods . Gaza is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.
While Israel has insisted that it is giving advance notice of its strikes, it is employing a new tactic of leveling whole swaths of neighborhoods, rather than just individual buildings.
Palestinians were in near-total darkness overnight after the only power station ran out of fuel and shut down. Hospitals' supplies of medicine and fuel for emergency generators are also expected to run out within days.
The morgue at Gaza’s biggest hospital overflowed Thursday as bodies came in faster than relatives could claim them on the sixth day of Israel’s heavy aerial bombardment.
Internet connectivity in Gaza City has been below 20% since Tuesday, according to analyst Doug Madory of the network monitoring firm Kentik Inc., whose data show outages began Saturday morning. Madory said an internet provider in Gaza told him that Israeli air strikes had cut fiber optic cables.
Will Israel launch a ground assault?
The Israeli military says it is preparing for a possible ground operation in Gaza but that political leadership has not yet decided on one. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters Thursday that forces “are preparing for a ground maneuver if decided.”
The military has invested tremendous resources for such a scenario, even building a training base in its southern desert meant to replicate Gaza’s urban landscape.
A ground offensive would send a strong message, and forces operating inside Gaza might have a better chance of killing top Hamas leaders and rescuing hostages.
Such an assault all but guarantees far higher casualties on both sides. And it would involve street-by-street battles with Hamas militants who’ve had years to prepare tunnels and traps.
Israel’s government is under intense pressure from the public to topple Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 . Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists and threatened an unprecedented response to Hamas’ wide-ranging incursion that began Oct. 7.
The Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, have been killed in Israel — a staggering toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria that lasted weeks.
What are the chances that the war will spread?
Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amirabdollahian said Thursday that if Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues, the war may open on “other fronts,” an apparent reference to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Israel is nervously watching Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and has sent troop reinforcements to the area.
Qassim Qassir, a Lebanese analyst close to Hezbollah, said the group “will not allow Hamas’ destruction and won’t leave Gaza alone to face a ground incursion.”
“When the situation requires further escalation, then Hezbollah will do so,” he told The Associated Press.
With an eye toward Hezbollah, U.S. President Joe Biden warned other players in the Middle East not to join the conflict.
Israel is anxious that opening a new front could change the tide of the war, with Hezbollah’s military caliber far superior to that of Hamas. But the fighting could be equally devastating for Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Hezbollah and Israel were engaged in a vicious monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate and a tense detente between the two sides. Lebanon is in the fourth year of an economic crisis and is bitterly divided between Hezbollah and its allies and opponents, grinding the political system to a standstill.
What has been the response from the US and other nations?
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that “you may be strong enough on your own to defend yourselves, but as long as America exists you will never have to. … We will always be there by your side.”
However, the US has no plans to send troops to Israel, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday.
Britain’s government says it is deploying two Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean within days to show support for Israel, offer “deterrence and assurance,” and support humanitarian efforts. The UK Royal Air Force surveillance planes will also begin patrols Friday to help “track threats to regional security, such as the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups.”
Malaysian Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir slammed Israel’s “outrageous acts of cruelty” in cutting off food, water and fuel to the Gaza Strip and said Malaysia will provide an emergency fund to help Palestinians.
Egypt has engaged with intensive talks with Israel and the United States to allow the delivery of aid and fuel through its Rafah crossing point. However, it pushed back against proposals to establish escape corridors out of Gaza, saying an an exodus of Palestinians from the enclave would have grave consequences on the Palestinian cause.
Meanwhile, in Syria on Thursday, state media reported that Israeli airstrikes hit the international airports of the capital, Damascus, and the northern city of Aleppo, damaging their runways and putting them out of service.
What is the status of foreign citizens in Israel?
Dozens of citizens of other countries, who were in Israel for reasons ranging from raves to agricultural work, were killed or abducted in Saturday's attack.
The number of U.S. citizens confirmed to have been killed in the latest Israel-Hamas war has risen to at least 27, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday, and at least 14 more Americans remain unaccounted for.
China, Brazil, Estonia, France, Nepal and Turkey have all reported citizens dead or missing.