Israeli military renews warnings to Palestinians not to return to war-torn northern Gaza


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military renewed warnings on Monday for Palestinians in Gaza not to return to the embattled territory’s north.

Northern Gaza was an early target of Israel’s war against Hamas and vast parts of it have been flattened, forcing much of the area’s population to flee south. While around 250,000 people are said to be living in the north, the Israeli military has prevented most displaced people from returning throughout the six-month-long war, saying the area is an active battle zone.

The military has reduced the number of troops it has in Gaza and has said it has loosened Hamas’ control over the north, but Israel is still carrying out airstrikes and targeted operations in the area against what it says are reorganizing militants.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Palestinians should stay in southern Gaza, where they have been told to shelter, because the north is a “dangerous combat zone.”

People appeared to be heeding the new warning.

Northern Gaza and the return of its population is a key sticking point between Israel and Hamas in negotiations underway to try to bring about a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages taken by the militant group. Israel wants to try to delay the return to prevent militants from regrouping in the north, while Hamas says it wants a free flow of returnees.

The conflict started on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a surprise attack and incursion into southern Israel. Around 250 people were seized as hostages by the militants and taken to Gaza. A deal in November freed about 100 hostages, leaving about 130 in captivity, although Israel says about a quarter of those are dead.

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 33,700 Palestinians and wounded over 76,200, according to claims by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally.

Israel says it has killed over 12,000 militants during the war.