‘Nowhere to go’: Palestinian refugee agency head says 600,000 under evacuation orders in southern Gaza

Israeli army surrounds Khan Younis home of Hamas leader in Gaza, while fierce fighting continues in northern Gaza Strip in Jebalya and Sejaiya

As Israeli troops pushed further into Khan Younis, Gaza’s second largest city, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said more than 600,000 people were under Israeli evacuation orders in southern Gaza, nearly half of whom had already been forced to leave their homes.

Unrwa commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini also warned“there is nowhere to go” as shelters were over capacity.

The Israeli army surrounded the Khan Younis home of Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. “His home is not his fortress, and while he may flee, it is only a matter of time until we get him,” prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said.

Fierce fighting also continued in the northern Gaza Strip in Jebalya and Sejaiya.


UN secretary general Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time, warning that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security”.

“More than eight weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” he wrote.

The Israeli military on Wednesday claimed to have located the largest weapons cache to date found in Gaza, near a clinic and a school in the north. Images released showed a stockpile of hundreds of rockets and RPG launchers, dozens of anti-tank missiles, dozens of explosive charges, long-range missiles and dozens of grenades and drones.

More than 16,000 people have been killed in Gaza during the current conflict, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel claims to have killed about 6,000 militants in the fighting. Israel began its strikes on the coastal enclave following the Hamas-led attack on October 7th, when gunmen crossed the border and killed 1,200 people, according to Israel, and took about 240 others hostage. Israel says 138 of them remain in Hamas captivity.

Senior officials from the Biden administration told CNN they expected the current stage of the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip to last several weeks – probably into the new year. This contrasts sharply with earlier Israeli assessments that the military needs months in order to dismantle Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.

Israel’s extended war cabinet convened on Wednesday night to consider two demands from Washington: increasing the amount of fuel entering Gaza each day and granting more work permits for West Bank Palestinians to work in Israel.

With daily exchanges of fire happening along Israel’s northern border, Israel says the ongoing security situation will have to change there as well, after the Gaza war.

Defence minister Yoav Gallant told mayors of communities on the Lebanese border on Monday that the Iran-backed militia group Hizbullah would be pushed north of the Litani River, located about 30km north of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Mr Gallant said new arrangements must “ensure the removal of Hizbullah, on the basis of UN resolution 1701″, or Israel would act “with all the means at its disposal” to remove it, including military means. Resolution 1701, adopted at the end of the 2006 Lebanon war between Israel and Hizbullah, called for no armed groups to be present south of the Litani except for the Unifil peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army.

Israel intercepted a ballistic missile launched by Houthi fighters in Yemen on Wednesday which was heading towards Eilat, the Red Sea resort at the southern tip of Israel. The Iranian-made missile was shot down before entering Israeli airspace. This was the fifth operational interception for the Arrow anti-missile defence system since the start of the Gaza war, four against missiles fired from Yemen and one a long-range missile from Gaza.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem