On 21 October 2023, the Israeli army dropped leaflets on northern Gaza ordering residents’ immediate “evacuation”. The leaflets warned residents to leave immediately, declaring their lives at risk and explicitly stating that “anyone who chooses not to leave from the north of the [Gaza] Strip to south of Wadi Gaza may be determined an accomplice in a terrorist organization”. The move came one week after the Israeli army had issued an ultimatum warning the 1.1 million residents in those areas to leave southwards.
Responding to the latest developments, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, Donatella Rovera said:
“Declaring a whole city or region a military target flies in the face of international humanitarian law, which stipulates that those carrying out attacks must distinguish at all times between civilians or civilian objects and military objectives, and that they must take all possible measures to spare civilians and civilian objects. Violating the principle of distinction by targeting civilians or civilian objects or by carrying out indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians is a war crime.
The messages in these leaflets cannot be considered an effective warning to civilians and instead provide further evidence that Israel aims to forcibly displace civilians in northern Gaza.Donatella Rovera. Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser
“The messages in these leaflets cannot be considered an effective warning to civilians and instead provide further evidence that Israel aims to forcibly displace civilians in northern Gaza. These threats also may amount to the war crime of collective punishment for holding hundreds of thousands of civilians responsible for acts they did not commit, based solely on the fact that they are staying in their homes when they have nowhere safe to go amid a relentless campaign of Israeli bombardment across the entire Gaza Strip.”
These leaflets must also be read in the context of the Israeli army’s initial so-called “evacuation” order, the repeated forced “evacuation” orders against some 23 hospitals located north of Wadi Gaza and the conditions imposed by Israeli authorities on the entry of humanitarian aid and where it may be distributed. These conditions include limiting the distribution of the largely insufficient humanitarian aid that entered Gaza recently to areas south of Wadi Gaza, effectively turning humanitarian aid into a form of blackmailing residents into leaving.
Amnesty International reiterates its call on the Israeli authorities to immediately rescind the forced “evacuation” orders and to put an end to threats designed to sow fear and panic among Gaza’s civilian population. All conditions on the distribution of humanitarian aid must be urgently lifted and aid, including fuel, must be allowed into Gaza in sufficient quantities to meet the dire needs of the civilian population.