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Thousands flee southern Gaza as Israel mounts new assault

Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes in southern Gaza as Israeli forces have bombarded several areas after issuing a new evacuation order for the embattled city of Khan Younis.

At least eight people were killed and more than 30 wounded in strikes on several neighbourhoods around Khan Younis on Tuesday, health authorities said.

The wave of attacks, just weeks after Israeli tanks left the area, caused panic among residents, many already displaced multiple times and with no clear path to safety.

The Israeli military’s newly declared evacuation zone in Khan Younis encompasses an area where 250,000 people live, said Sam Rose, planning director at the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The order “means yet another day, week, chapter of misery for these hundreds of thousands of people – we expect 250,000 people in areas under the evacuation order,” Rose told Al Jazeera from Nuseirat in central Gaza.

Some people had just returned from Rafah, also in the south of the enclave, where they were displaced a few weeks ago.

“And now they just received this evacuation order instructing them to leave immediately. … It’s just harrowing, horrific and incredibly difficult to get your head around,” Rose said.

The order includes Gaza’s European Hospital, which serves both Khan Younis and Rafah.

Ali Abu Ismehan, a wounded Palestinian evacuated from the European Hospital after the Israel army ordered residents to leave neighborhoods in the eastern part of Khan Younis, is wheeled on a bed at Nasser hospital, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip
Ali Abu Ismehan, a wounded Palestinian evacuated from the European Hospital, is wheeled on a bed at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis on July 2, 2024 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

The evacuation order shows Israel’s inability to achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas, said Luciano Zaccara, a professor of Gulf politics at Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Center.

“It also proves that Israel wants to win this war by exhausting the people,” he told Al Jazeera, referring to several previous such orders from different locations in the past nine months of war.