JERUSALEM >> More than a million people in the northern Gaza Strip have been ordered to evacuate to the south as the latest Israel-Hamas war entered its seventh day Friday and Israel appeared to be preparing a ground offensive. Hamas urged residents to stay put.
The orders sent panic through civilians and aid workers already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade of the Hamas-ruled area. International aid groups warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis after Israel prevented the entry of supplies from Egypt to Gaza’s 2.3 million people.
The latest Israel-Hamas war has claimed at least 3,200 lives on both sides since Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Oct. 7.
Some key takeaways from the war:
WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN GAZA?
As airstrikes hammered the territory throughout the day, families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with blankets and possessions streamed down a main road out of Gaza City.
Hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians across the territory wrangled over the agonizing choice of whether to stay or go following the Israeli order to evacuate.
Before the evacuation directives, 423,000 Gaza Strip residents had already fled their homes, according to the United Nations. Gaza is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.
Many Palestinians fear a repeat of the most traumatic event in their tortured history, their mass exodus from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.
Hamas’ media office said warplanes struck cars fleeing south, killing more than 70 people, while Israel’s military said that its troops had conducted temporary raids in Gaza to battle militants. Israel said its soldiers also hunted for traces of some 150 people abducted in Hamas’ attack last Saturday.
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.
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 HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN AROUND THE WORLD?
President Joe Biden said Friday that it’s a priority of his administration to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assured Israel that “we have your back” as he and America’s top diplomat met Friday with Israeli and Arab leaders. There was no indication the U.S. was trying to prevent an expected Israeli ground offensive into Gaza that could worsen a humanitarian crisis for the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the blockaded territory.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — the first Jewish Senate majority leader and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S. — is leading a bipartisan delegation of senators to Israel this weekend to express support for the country amid its week-old war against Hamas.
The U.N. Security Council still hasn’t found a collective voice on the Israel-Hamas war after meeting behind closed doors Friday for the second time in five days.
Russia is proposing a “humanitarian cease-fire,” which could be a tough sell as Israel is expected to undertake a ground offensive against the Hamas militants who rule Gaza and launched a brutal surprise attack on Israel last weekend
European Union leader Charles Michel on Friday warned that the Israel-Hamas war could create a surge in refugees heading for Europe, raising the risk of spurring on anti-migrant forces, deepening divisions and inflaming tensions between supporters of Israel and the Palestinians.
Iran’s foreign minister warned on Friday that if Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip don’t stop immediately, the violence could spread to other parts of the Middle East.
Syria’s president on Friday called on countries of the world to stand together to stop “the crimes that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people.”
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the Israeli army’s decision to order the evacuation. Egypt fears a massive influx of refugees across the heavily fortified border into its territory.
The deadly attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians and the devastating Israeli airstrikes and blockade of Gaza have raised accusations among international legal experts that both sides were violating international law.
SHELLING ON LEBANON BORDER KILLS INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST
An Israeli shell landed in a gathering of international journalists covering clashes on the border in southern Lebanon on Friday, killing a Reuters videographer and leaving six other journalists injured.
An Associated Press photographer at the scene saw the body of Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and the six who were wounded, some of whom were rushed to hospitals in ambulances. Images from the scene showed a charred car.
Reuters said two of its journalists, Thaer Al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh, were wounded in the shelling in the border area.
Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV, said two of its employees, Elie Brakhya and reporter Carmen Joukhadar, also were among the wounded.
France’s international news agency, Agence France-Presse, said two of its journalists also were among the wounded, but the agency did not release their names.
U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called the deaths “another example of the daily dangers journalists face in covering conflict throughout the world” and said the world body hopes for an investigation into what happened.
WHAT PROMPTED HAMAS’ ATTACK ON ISRAEL?
Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, says it is defending Palestinians’ right to freedom and self-determination. But the devastation following Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7 has sharpened questions about its strategy and objectives.
Desperation has grown among Palestinians, many of whom see nothing to lose under unending Israeli control and increasing settlements in the West Bank, the blockade in Gaza, and what they see as the world’s apathy.
In addition to citing long-simmering tensions, Hamas officials cite a long-running dispute over the sensitive Al-Aqsa Mosque that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Competing claims over the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, have spilled into violence before, including a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.
Associated Press Writers Matthew Lee in Washington, Samy Magdy in Cairo and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed to this report.