As Gazans seek safety, Israel says Hamas ‘trying to prevent’ people fleeing – National |


An Israel Defense Forces official says Hamas is “trying to prevent” people from fleeing Gaza, as civilians try to seek safety ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive.

Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesperson for the IDF, told The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson on Sunday morning that there is “ongoing movement from north to south, which is a good thing because Hamas has been trying to prevent that.”

“They actually established roadblocks to prevent it. Yesterday, they orchestrated an explosive, what appears to be an explosive device, on the route of the evacuation. And they actually tried to blame that attack on Israel,” Lerner said.

“Israel had nothing to do with the deaths of people in the convoy that happened two days ago.”

He added: “Hamas had changed the rules of the game, or broken the rules of the game. And now we’re changing the game. Hamas will no longer be at the end of this. Hamas will no longer be around.”

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Currently, there is no way out of Gaza for the roughly 2.3 million people living in the territory. The anticipated Saturday safe corridor at the Rafah Gate border crossing into Egypt never opened due to violence, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly confirmed Saturday.

U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said on CNN ‘s State of the Union on Sunday morning that the U.S. government has told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to open the border and let Americans out of Gaza. However, he said Hamas is presenting a challenge.

“The Egyptians have in fact agreed to allow Americans to depart, to get safe passage through the Rafah crossing. The Israelis agreed to ensure that the area around there would be safe, at least as far as they were able to do so. The question when we tried to move a group yesterday was actually Hamas taking steps to try and stop that from happening,” Sullivan said.

More than 2,450 people have been killed in Gaza in the last week, according to the region’s health ministry. The deaths come after Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,300 people in Israel, including five Canadians.

It was not clear how many Palestinians remained in north Gaza by Saturday afternoon, said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Israeli airstrikes continue

All eyes remain on Gaza and Israel as of Sunday, with details still unclear about a looming potential Israeli ground offensive into the territory and as tensions escalate about the potential for a broader regional conflict.

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The Israeli military said in a Saturday statement it was preparing a coordinated offensive in Gaza using air, ground and naval forces, The Associated Press reported, and on Sunday morning the Israeli Air Force (IAF) said in an English tweet, that jets are currently striking Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon, which is along Israel’s northern border while Gaza is in the south.

The Israeli Defense Forces said in the tweet that the strikes were in response to nine rockets being fired “from Lebanon into Israeli territory.”

“There have been skirmishes, including fatalities even this morning, as anti-tank guided missiles have been fired at Israel and with fatalities this morning. And so Hezbollah is definitely heating up the situation,” Lerner said to Global News.

“I would recommend that Hezbollah look very closely how we are dismantling Hamas’s government leadership and operational capabilities. And they should be very cautious about crossing that threshold.

On Friday, Israel gave the population of the northern half of the Gaza Strip – about one million people – until Saturday morning to move south.

Families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with possessions crowded a main road heading away from Gaza City Saturday as Israeli airstrikes continued to hammer the 40-kilometre-long territory, the Associated Press reported. Supplies of food, fuel and drinking water have been running low because of a complete Israeli siege.

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The United Nations said Friday that evacuating everyone within 24 hours was “impossible.”

Click to play video: 'Israel-Gaza conflict: Fears grow for hostages held by Hamas as ground invasion looms'

Israel-Gaza conflict: Fears grow for hostages held by Hamas as ground invasion looms

Gaza hospital becomes refuge

Not everyone in northern Gaza has been willing or able to flee.

Medical officials estimate that 35,000 displaced civilians are crammed into the city’s main hospital, Shifa, hoping for protection. Doctors say 95 per cent of the medical supplies are used up and no humanitarian aid is being allowed in.

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Hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel within two days, which would endanger the lives of thousands of patients, the U.N. says.

The World Health Organization has said the evacuation ordered by Israel “could be tantamount to a death sentence” for the more than 2,000 patients in northern hospitals, including newborns in incubators and people in intensive care.

–With files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea and Mercedes Stephenson, as well as The Associated Press and Reuters.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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