Israel orders evacuation of 1.1m people from northern Gaza within 24 hours as Sunak urges Netanyahu to protect civilians

13 October 2023, 06:22 | Updated: 13 October 2023, 11:07

Israel's military on Friday directed the evacuation of northern Gaza
Israel's military on Friday directed the evacuation of northern Gaza. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Israel has ordered the evacuation of 1.1m people from northern Gaza in just 24 hours as Rishi Sunak urges PM Benjamin Netanyahu to protect civilians.

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The order, which was delivered to the UN, comes as Israel presses an offensive against Hamas.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the order "impossible" without "devastating humanitarian consequences".

Israel's military also directed the hundreds of thousands of residents in Gaza City to evacuate "for their own safety and protection". Residents were told to flee deeper south into the Gaza Strip.

Israel's directive said that members of Hamas were hiding in tunnels under the city.

It comes ahead of an expected ground invasion of Gaza, with Israel vowing to end Hamas' ability to harm its citizens after more than 1,000 were killed in a brutal attack on Saturday.

The UN are trying to get clarity from Israeli officials at the senior most political level.

"It's completely unprecedented," an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City. Picture: Getty

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Power has been cut off to the strip, and its sole power plant stopped working, with the UN's World Food Programme warning that people are running out of food and water.

Rishi Sunak told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to "protect ordinary Palestinians" in Israel's fight back against Hamas.

A No10 spokeswoman said Mr Sunak "reiterated that the UK stands side by side with Israel in fighting terror" in a phone call with the leader, adding that Hamas should "never again be able to perpetrate atrocities against the Israeli people".

"Noting that Hamas has enmeshed itself in the civilian population in Gaza, the prime minister said it was important to take all possible measures to protect ordinary Palestinians and facilitate humanitarian aid," she said.

The UK is set to send a pair of Royal Navy ships to the Eastern Mediterranean and will start surveillance flights over Israel.

The RFA Argus and RFA Lyme Bay, which are part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, will deploy as a "littoral response group".

They will arrive after the USS Gerald R Ford, an aircraft carrier, was sent to the region to deter Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia it's feared could join the fighting and open up a second front against Israel.

Mr Sunak said the UK deployment will help "prevent further escalation" and said the "horrific scenes" of Hamas' attack must not be repeated.

Read more: Israel 'has a duty' to turn water and electricity supply back on in Gaza, top Tory MP tells LBC

Surveillance aircraft will begin patrols on Friday to track threats in the region, while the Royal Navy ships will be used to mitigate the humanitarian crisis.

The military will be available to "deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region, and offer deterrence and assurance", No 10 said.

The Lyme Bay has deployed to the Mediterranean
The Lyme Bay has deployed to the Mediterranean. Picture: Alamy

British politicians have vowed to stand by the country, with James Cleverly visiting the scene of the rampage in the south and even having to run for cover after a rocket alert.

The Argus is a casualty ship which can effectively act as a 100-bed hospital.

Lyme Bay is a landing ship, which can launch and support amphibious troops. The ships are due to arrive next week.

A company of Royal Marines will also deploy, as will a P8 maritime patrol aircraft, "surveillance assets" and three Merlin helicopters.

"We must be unequivocal in making sure the types of horrific scenes we have seen this week will not be repeated," Sunak said.

A ground invasion is anticipated in Gaza
A ground invasion is anticipated in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

"Alongside our allies, the deployment of our world class military will support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation.

"Our military and diplomatic teams across the region will also support international partners to re-establish security and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of innocent victims of this barbaric attack from Hamas terrorists."

Israel says 1,300 people have died since the attack while it is claimed 1,400 have died in Israel's attacks on Gaza.

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