New Delhi: Israel’s president Isaac Herzog claimed in a press conference that there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, while thousands of Palestinians struggled to flee northern Gaza after Israel’s military told some 1.1 million of them to evacuate south ahead of an anticipated military operation.
“It is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Herzog said at a press conference on Friday, October 13, the HuffPost reported on.
“It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”
International law is clear that belligerents who fail to distinguish between combatants and civilians are guilty of war crimes.
The report says that when a reporter asked Herzog to clarify whether he meant to say that since Gazans did not remove Hamas from power “that makes them, by implication, legitimate targets,” Herzog said, “No, I didn’t say that.”
However, he followed up with a telling question: “When you have a missile in your goddamn kitchen and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself?”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has vowed to “destroy” the Gaza-based militant group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the US, the EU, Germany and other countries, after it orchestrated a terrorist attack against Israeli civilians last weekend.
“I emphasise that this is only the beginning,” he said in a rare statement televised on Friday.
As Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza on Friday, Palestinians fled south in cars, trucks and donkey carts on the main road leading out of Gaza City.
In a ground report, Associated Press said that in understaffed hospitals already grappling with resource crunches, Palestinian doctors said “they felt they had no choice but to stay put.”
The general director of Gaza’s biggest hospital Shifa, for one, has said there was no way to evacuate it.
Doctors Without Borders has been among those to have tweeted on the impossibility of such an evacuation notice.
Israel has given Al Awda Hospital just two hours to evacuate. Our staff are still treating patients.
We unequivocally condemn this action, the continued indiscriminate bloodshed and attacks on health care in Gaza.
We are trying to protect our staff and patients.
— MSF International (@MSF) October 13, 2023
The United Nations urged Israel to reverse its evacuation directive, arguing that ordering half the population in the densely-populated Gaza Strip to move would have serious humanitarian impacts.
“Moving more than one million people across a densely populated war zone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory of Gaza is under siege, is extremely dangerous — and in some cases, simply not possible,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said on social media.
Moving more than one million people across a densely populated warzone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory of Gaza is under siege, is extremely dangerous – and in some cases, simply not possible.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) October 13, 2023
The UN has also urged to avoid the path of collective punishment:
“Since Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched an attack including thousands of indiscriminate rockets that have reached central Israel, the UN warned against indiscriminate or disproportionate action against Gaza and expressed concern over the “full siege” of the territory ordered by the Israeli authorities, shutting off electricity, water, food and fuel supplies.”
The Associated Press report carried quotes of Palestinians who pointed to the 1948 Nakba – or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation when 700,000 fled or were driven from their homes in what is now Israel.
Before the evacuation directive, 423,000 people in the Gaza Strip had already been displaced by bombing, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
(With inputs from DW).