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The Israeli military has said that Gaza City residents must not delay their departure before a military offensive starts, as people leaving the north of the territory again jammed roads south.

Ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive against Hamas, which attacked southern Israel on October 7, Israel has designated two safe routes for more than one million residents of northern Gaza to leave for the south of the blockaded territory.


Military spokesman Richard Hecht said there is a safe passage “window” between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) on the roads, down the Gaza coast and through the centre of the narrow Palestinian territory, which is about 40 kilometres (25 miles) long.

Thousands of Gazans packed buses, cars and donkey carts again on Saturday to escape the northern zone.

Without saying how many days the window would remain, Hecht told reporters: “We know this is going to take time but we recommend people not to delay.”

Israel has faced calls from the United Nations, United States and European Union to delay an expected full offensive to give civilians time to leave.

The Israeli military has indicated that Gaza city will be the focus of its operations because this is the base for the Hamas leadership that it blames for the attacks last week that left at least 1,300 dead in Israel.

Gaza authorities say at least 2,215 people have died in Israeli retaliatory strikes against Gaza targets over the past seven days.

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