Israel has warned the 1.1 million people living in the north of Gaza to evacuate the area within 24 hours as a "humanitarian step in order to minimize civilian casualties" ahead of the military's response to Hamas' terrorist attacks.
Israel Defense Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus shared the message he said was sent to citizens in Gaza on X, formerly Twitter, Friday morning.
"The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians from Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and to move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza, the river Gaza, as shown on the map," Conricus said.
He explained that telling people to move south of the river makes the directions clear and understandable for everybody, regardless of if they have a map or not.
Conricus said the evacuation order is for safety purposes, adding that civilians will not be able to return to Gaza City until another announcement clearing the area is made. He also said to not approach the area of the security fence with Israel.
The United Nations told The Associated Press it received a notice from Israel issuing the 24-hour evacuation warning, and Conricus confirmed communications with the UN.
Hamas operates out of Gaza City in tunnels underneath homes and inside buildings populated with innocent civilians in efforts to use them as human shields.
"Civilians of Gaza City, evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields," the IDF said in a news release.
The IDF said it will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and will make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians.
"There are civilians here who are not our enemy and we do not want to target them. We are asking them to evacuate so we will be able to continue to strike military targets belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip," Conricus said.
As of Thursday night, more than 2,800 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed and at least 9,800 have been wounded since Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Saturday. The death toll is expected to rise as Israeli forces reportedly prepare for a ground invasion of Gaza.