Norway has successfully evacuated 56 individuals, linked to the country, from the war-ravaged zone of Gaza, as confirmed by Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide. Among those rescued are 25 children, with the youngest being just six months old and the eldest 12. The majority of the evacuees hold Norwegian citizenship, while some hold Palestinian and one Swedish. This development comes in the wake of escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has resulted in numerous civilian casualties since the war outbreak on October 7, 2023. Norway has been in dialogue with all relevant parties to ensure a safe passage, despite recognizing the complexity and uncertainty of the situation. The Foreign Minister expressed that even with an agreement in place, unforeseen events can occur in this demanding situation.
Humanitarian Crisis Amidst War
Close to 1.8 million Gazans, which makes up around 80 percent of the population, have been compelled to abandon their homes since Israel initiated its bombardment in response to Hamas's attack on October 7. The number of displaced individuals residing outside the shelter system is challenging to ascertain and is periodically corrected. Multiple government and United Nations shelters are within the new evacuation zone announced by Israeli forces. The shelter population in the Gaza Strip has skyrocketed since the war's inception, particularly in the central and southern regions of Deir al Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah areas, where Israeli forces have directed Palestinians to evacuate. The cramped conditions and limited access to safe water and sanitation facilities are exacerbating the spread of diseases, compounded by the onset of winter.
Worsening Conditions and Rising Casualties
Israel has launched strikes in densely populated areas in northern and southern Gaza, where it alleges Hamas militants are hiding, thereby further limiting the territory available to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians seeking refuge. The hardest-hit appears to be the north, where fresh strikes have been carried out on the Jabalya refugee camp. Israel has signalled a broadening of operations with new evacuation warnings in the southern hub of Khan Younis, where Palestinians already displaced from the north had been directed to move.
The Israel Defense Forces, during the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, ordered all communities north of the Wadi Gaza, including Gaza City, to evacuate southward. The United Nations has described this order as creating chaos. Between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people moved to the south of the Gaza Strip while 350,000 to 400,000 stayed in the north. Evacuees described the evacuation corridors as unsafe, filled with terror from Israeli soldiers, and littered with dead bodies along the road.