Over 600,000 Palestinians flee north Gaza ahead of Israeli offensive

Several hundred thousand Palestinians are still in the northern half of the Gaza Strip, according to Israel’s military, with Israeli troops massing the border ahead of a possible ground offensive.

Just over 600,000 people were estimated to have moved to the south of the sealed-off coastal strip by Monday night, army spokesman, Jonathan Conricus, said on Tuesday.

“There are still a few hundred thousand who should leave,’’ he added.

A senior UN official on Monday gave a different figure, saying we have seen about a million people move from the north to the south.

Israel is apparently preparing for a huge ground offensive in the coming days with the stated aim of destroying the Islamist Hamas movement and killing its members.

Israel has repeatedly called for civilians living in the north of Gaza to evacuate further south.

Hamas gunmen carried out massacres in Israeli communities 10 days ago, killing more than 1,400 people, shocking the country, and taking the intelligence services by surprise.

Retaliatory Israeli bombardments on the Gaza Strip since then have killed at least 2,800 people, according to Palestinian authorities.

The mass movement of Gazans and dire humanitarian conditions inside the densely populated territory have led to growing calls for the border between Gaza and Egypt to be opened.