Hamas fighters had lost control of the northern part of the Gaza Strip, prompting tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee south, the Israeli military said early Thursday.
“We saw 50,000 Gazans move from the northern Gaza Strip to the south,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a televised briefing. “They are moving because they understand that Hamas has lost control in the north. Hamas has lost control and is continuing to lose control in the north.”
Israel began opening an evacuation corridor on Sunday along the main road connecting the north and south of Gaza. It remains open for four hours daily to allow civilians to leave the epicenter of fighting. The IDF said Wednesday that it extended the corridor for an additional hour because so many people were using it.
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Israel launched its offensive in response to Hamas’ October 7 terror attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Hamas also took about 240 people hostage. The U.S., U.K., EU and other countries in the West have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.
Hamas launched the October 7 massacre in order to “change the entire equation,” bring permanent war to Israel’s borders and bring attention to the Palestinian cause, a senior member of the terror group’s politburo in Qatar said.
“What could change the equation was a great act, and without a doubt, it was known that the reaction to this great act would be big,” Khalil al-Hayya told The New York Times in an interview published on Wednesday.
Senior Hamas member Ghazi Hamad told Lebanese TV channel LBC that the massacre was the first of many, and that “there will be a second, a third, and a fourth” attack if the group is given the chance.
“Will we have to pay a price? Yes, and we are ready to pay it,” he said in the October 24 appearance. “We are called a nation of martyrs, and we are proud to sacrifice martyrs.”
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations issued a joint statement supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and calling for humanitarian pauses to allow aid to reach Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said those calling for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict “have an obligation to explain how to address the unacceptable result that would likely bring about: Hamas left in place with more than 200 hostages, with a capacity and stated intent to repeat October 7th again and again and again.”
With reporting from VOA.