Israel expands offensive in southern Gaza as UN says civilians must be protected

The Israeli military is intensifying its offensive in southern Gaza, instructing Palestinian civilians to evacuate for their safety over the past two months.

Israel Defense Forces escalated their bombardment of Khan Younis, the second-largest city in the besieged enclave, with a focus on protecting civilians emphasized by the United Nations and the U.S., Israel’s top ally.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern about the renewed hostilities between Israel and Hamas, urging measures to prevent harm to civilians. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated, “For people ordered to evacuate, there is nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that Israel has designated no-strike zones, expecting Israel to adhere to those guidelines. However, he also highlighted that at least 50 people were killed in Israeli strikes on Khan Younis and the Nuseirat refugee camp, emphasizing the need to avoid civilian casualties.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the casualties, and the State Department’s Matthew Miller stated it’s too early to definitively assess the intentional targeting of civilians but acknowledged civilian deaths and blamed Hamas for embedding itself in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.

The Gaza offensive by Israel has resulted in more than 15,800 casualties, according to Palestinian health authorities. The IDF estimates that 137 hostages remain in Gaza out of the approximately 240 taken by Hamas on October 7.

Israeli forces targeted Hezbollah in recent strikes on the Israeli-Lebanese border, accusing them of violating a humanitarian truce. Israel hit important targets belonging to Hezbollah, which was not part of the Israel-Hamas cease-fire agreement.

Government spokesperson Ofir Gendelman stressed the expansion of the war on Hamas, urging civilians to seek safe areas. Critics argue that there is no safe place for Palestinian civilians, with previously sought refuge sites now under attack. Approximately 1.2 million people, over half of Gaza’s population, are sheltering in Rafah on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, which has also been a target of Israeli bombings.