RAFAH: The United Nations said Tuesday that nearly 450,000 people have been displaced from Rafah since Israel began issuing evacuation orders for the south Gaza city eight days ago.

At the same time, another 100,000 people have fled their homes amid renewed fighting in northern Gaza, the UN said, meaning that around a quarter of Gaza’s population of around 2.4 million people has been displaced again in just over a week.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said Tuesday that it estimated “that nearly 450,000 people have been forcibly displaced from Rafah since 6 May”.

That was the day Israel issued an initial evacuation order for eastern Rafah, and it has repeatedly expanded the areas ordered emptied of civilians since then as it prepares for a widely feared ground assault.

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While it has not yet announced a large-scale operation, Israel defied international opposition and entered Rafah with tanks and troops last week, seizing its key crossing on the Egyptian border.

The UN has warned of an “epic” disaster if Israel conducts an outright invasion of the city where 1.4 million people – many displaced from elsewhere in war-torn Gaza – had been sheltering.

“Empty streets in Rafah as families continue to flee in search of safety,” UNRWA said on X, formerly Twitter.

“People face constant exhaustion, hunger and fear. Nowhere is safe. An immediate ceasefire is the only hope.”

Israel has asked people in the designated evacuation areas in Rafah to head to the Al-Mawasi “humanitarian zone” on the coast northwest of Rafah, though aid groups have warned it is not ready for an influx of people.

UNRWA warned later on Tuesday that the infrastructure in Khan Yunis was “completely destroyed”.

“There are no water, electricity nor sewage services,” it said, cautioning that “displaced people fleeing Rafah are moving back to destroyed areas that are in no way fit for them to live in”.

“Families keep fleeing where they can – including to rubble & sand dunes – in search of safety. But there’s no such thing in Gaza,” the agency said in another post.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Palestinian group also seized about 250 hostages, 128 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 36 the military says are dead.

Israel’s relentless bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have since killed at least 35,173 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

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