IDF inside Gaza looking for hostages amid evacuation order

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Friday, October 13, 2023
Israel may be preparing for ground invasion of Gaza
Israel ordered the evacuation of more than 1 million people in northern Gaza, an indication the military may be preparing for a ground invasion.

Israeli special forces have been inside Gaza over the last few days trying to locate hostages, according to an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson.

"Infantry and armored forces searched and gathered in the area for findings that may help in the effort to locate the missing and thwarted terrorist infrastructure and terrorist cells found in the area, among which a cell of the terrorist organization Hamas fired anti-tank fire at Israeli territory," the IDF said. Israel's air force is continuing its attacks on Hamas in Gaza, the IDF said.

Israel said its alerted 120 families that their loved ones are held in Gaza.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby avoided said if the U.S. believed Israel's calls for civilians in Gaza to evacuate in the next 24 hours was possible but acknowledge that it was a "tall order" given how densely populated the area is, ABC News reported.

"Well, I think we're going to be careful not to get into armchair quarterbacking the tactics on the ground by the IDF. What I can tell you is we understand what they're trying to do. They're trying to move civilians out of harm's way and giving them fair warning. Now, it's a tall order. It's a million people, and it's a very urban, dense environment, already a combat zone. I don't think anybody's underestimating the challenge here of affecting that evacuation," Kirby said in an interview on CNN Friday morning.

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"But it's pretty clear that what they're trying to do is to the maximum extent possible avoid civilian casualties and also separate Hamas from the human shields. I mean, Hamas actually gave a counterorder telling Palestinians in Gaza to stay at home. Why? Because having human shields, they think, protects them," Kirby continued.

Doctors Without Borders issued a statement Friday calling the Israeli government's 24-hour notice to leave northern Gaza "outrageous."

"We are talking about more than a million human beings," Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. "'Unprecedented' doesn't even cover the medical humanitarian impact of this. Gaza is being flattened, thousands of people are dying. This must stop now. We condemn Israel's demand in the strongest possible terms."

Over 423,000 people have been displaced in Gaza so far, according to the United Nations.

Asked about their efforts to secure a safe passage for civilians out of Gaza, Kirby reiterated that the U.S. is talking to Israel and Egypt but would not comment further on progress.

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On the Rafah crossing specifically, Kirby said "So far it's still closed. But that doesn't mean were not going to still try as hard as we can to talk to the Israelis and Egyptians about getting it open and having some sort of safe passage out. It's important that we also continue to work to make sure that humanitarian assistance can get in. The United States has no intention of stopping our efforts to continue to deliver humanitarian assistance, but there has to be a path in, there has to be a path out."

Kirby had no update on the Americans who are believed to be held hostage in Gaza and could not confirm reports that 13 hostages have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, as Hamas has claimed.