As hostilities intensify, civilians evacuate northern Gaza during a brief ceasefire

Palestinians families fleeing Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza towards the southern areas
©MAHMUD HAMS, AFP via Getty Images Palestinians families fleeing Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza towards the southern areas

As Israeli warplanes hit northern Gaza on Friday morning, thousands of residents fled to the south through safe passages and Israeli troops advanced further into the city’s largest urban area.

Several hospitals, including the biggest one in the strip, Al Shifa Hospital, were near the explosions, where people had taken shelter from the intense shelling and street battles.

Gaza health officials blamed Israel for the attacks near the hospitals, but Israel said a Palestinian rocket had caused at least one of the blasts.

The Associated Press reported that one blast damaged the courtyard and the maternity ward of Al Shifa, killing one person and injuring others. The head of the media office run by Hamas in Gaza, Salama Maarouf, told Al Jazeera that three hospitals were hit by the strikes, but he did not give any details about the casualties.

Israel claims that Hamas has its main headquarters inside and under the Al Shifa complex. Israel also accuses Hamas of using hospitals, schools and mosques to hide weapons and fighters. Hamas denies this and says Israel is making excuses for its airstrikes.

Israel opened a coastal road for six hours on Friday to let civilians in northern Gaza escape. Many people have left the area through the main highway that runs north to south, which has been open sometimes during the week. The Israeli army has been telling civilians to leave while it targets Gaza City, where it says Hamas is based. On Thursday, John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said Israel had agreed to stop fighting for four hours every day in northern Gaza. He said Israel would announce each break three hours before it started. It is not clear if any breaks happened on Friday.


∎ The Committee to Protect Journalists said its initial investigations showed that at least 39 journalists and media workers had died since the war between Israel and Hamas started. This was the worst month for journalists since the nonprofit started collecting data in 1992.

∎ The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, said more than 11,000 Palestinians had died since the war began last month. Barbara Leaf, an assistant secretary of state, told a House committee on Thursday that the number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza could be higher than the latest figures from the ministry.

∎ Israel said more than 1,400 people had died in Israel, mostly civilians who were killed when Hamas attacked border towns on Oct. 7. Israel said more than two dozen of its soldiers had died in Gaza since it started the ground invasion.

∎ Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant group, showed a video of two hostages on Thursday − a woman who was 77 years old and a boy who was 13 years old − and said it would let them go if it got what it wanted. The group, which said it had at least 30 hostages, did not say what it wanted.

∎ The U.N. said Israeli bombs had damaged or destroyed at least 45% of the homes in Gaza. It said the war had reduced the strip’s economic output by 4% in the first month and it would go down by another 8.4% − or $1.7 billion − if the war lasted for another month.

Israel-Hamas War | Four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in fighting
Credit: SABC News