January 13, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel: North Gaza Still Too Dangerous for Civilians to Return

January 13, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel: North Gaza Still Too Dangerous for Civilians to Return

Latest Developments

Israel said on January 13 that it was still too dangerous for Palestinian civilians evacuated from the northern Gaza Strip to return. Given ongoing fighting between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), chief of staff Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi stated, “When we know there is no danger to the population, we will be able to consider bringing them back.”

Early in the war, Israel urged residents of Gaza City and the surrounding areas to evacuate to southern Gaza while intense fighting raged in the north. In contrast, Hamas instructed Palestinian civilians to stay put, where they suffered casualties and served as human shields. Ensuring appropriate conditions for these civilians to return remains a focus of talks between Jerusalem and Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported that allies agreed, on January 9, to allow United Nations (UN) representatives into northern Gaza so they can assess how to most safely return residents.

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration is looking for any change on the ground to improve the humanitarian conditions. But this cannot be done at any cost. Though Israel has broken the back of Hamas terrorism and governance in the north, the Palestinian terrorist group retains active squads there, potentially waiting in ambush in hidden underground facilities. A civilian influx would provide Hamas with ample cover to inflict Israeli troops casualties. Any civilians hurt or killed by the return fire would also be welcomed by Hamas, which welcomes increasing Palestinian casualties as part of its strategic objectives.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“The Israeli military has to prepare the ground for civilians’ return after months of fierce fighting. However, Hamas’s substantial military infrastructure remains partially intact, while clashes continue. Consequently, it is not safe for Palestinian civilians to return.” Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Israel striving to uphold international law

On January 13, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed, “There is international law, and this law says something simple: You take a population out in order to take it away from a war zone that endangers them, and you do not return them as long as the danger exists.” Netanyahu continued, “There is extensive fighting in the northern Gaza Strip and we will not bring residents back while there is fighting.” The IDF “avoids harming noncombatants, this is our policy,” he emphasized.

Israel Expands Aid Access to Gaza,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Shifts to ‘Third Phase’ of Gaza War,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Creates Maps of Gaza Strip to Aid Civilian Evacuations,” FDD Flash Brief


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