The most fundamental principle of the international laws of war is the need to separate civilian populations from combatants and other military targets. This protects civilians – keeping them away from armed conflict – and can significantly reduce the danger they face and the harm that befalls them. 

For this reason, Israel urged civilians to evacuate the northern portion of Gaza and move to the south. Presumably in advance of an intensification of attacks against Hamas’ leadership and terror infrastructure in northern Gaza, Israel’s call is entirely consistent with international law and with attempting to limit collateral damage. (Under international law, Israel could also force civilians to move for “imperative military reasons.” See this post for a good legal discussion.) 

In sharp contrast to both the law and morality, Hamas opposed any evacuation of northern Gaza and prevented people from leaving. After all, for years, Hamas has systematically exploited the civilian population of Gaza as “human shields,” expecting that their presence will either deter Israeli attacks or result in large numbers of civilian casualties providing a PR victory and generating international pressure, condemnations, and sanctions against Israel. 

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to promote human rights, humanitarian principles, and international law have condemned Israel for the evacuation warning. Several of these condemnations invoked narratives of the Israel eliminationist agenda. This campaign is not only aimed at diverting attention from the barbaric Hamas slaughter of 1,500 Israelis, but also bolsters and enables Hamas. Highlighting the double standards and invented international law applicable only to Israel, many of the NGOs condemning Israel have been active in supporting and assisting in humanitarian evacuations in multiple conflicts including Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and West Africa.

The NGO falsely accuse Israel of “forced displacement,” “ethnic cleansing,” “an act of terrorism,” and seeking a “second Naqba.” There is also contradictory messaging coming from the NGO community, with some claiming that an evacuation is impossible because civilians cannot leave Gaza, with others alleging that evacuation calls are wrong because they are a prelude to Palestinians having to leave Gaza. Few, if any, of these groups have called on Hamas to cease its campaign of co-locating its terror infrastructure within civilian areas, to end its practice of human shielding, and to unconditionally release the more than 200 Israelis held captive. Some even deliberately covered up the theft of humanitarian aid or the presence of Hamas combatants and weaponry at Gaza hospitals. Several of these NGOs are affiliates of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization, which also participated in the October 7 massacre of Israeli civilians.

Excerpts from NGO Statements

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) (Funded by the Foundation for Middle East Peace)

  • On October 13, CMEP published a statement claiming “Congress and the Biden Administration must not sit idly by as ethnic cleansing unfolds… the Israeli government announced that the 1.1 million Gazans living in the northern part of the enclave had 24 hours to relocate to the south. CMEP strongly denounces this move – not only would it force people from their homes and communities, it is impossible to move more than one million people logistically and safely in such a short period of time. The southern area also remains under the threat of bombing…”

BADIL (Funded by Sweden, Spain, Germany)

  • On October 13, BADIL sent a letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres claiming, “the immediate objective behind this call is to isolate the Palestinian resistance, restrict its movement, and fake the aggressors’ appearance of being humanitarian, while the strategic goal of this brutal war remains to create a new Nakba (catastrophe)  in the Gaza Strip.”

Al Mezan/Al-Haq/Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) (Funded by Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, EU, Norway, Netherlands, France, Denmark, UN agencies)

  • On October 13 Al Mezan, Al-Haq, and PCHR tweeted “in view of the absence of any guarantees of safety/return, Israel’s evacuation order of 1+ million Palestinians in #Gaza may amount to the war crime of forcible transfer, and stands in flagrant violation of IHL norms.”

Al Mezan (Funded by Sweden, EU, Netherlands)

  • On October 13, Al Mezan tweeted, “Israel called on all residents of North Gaza and Gaza Districts to evacuate to Wadi Gaza. One million Palestinians. This is no real warning; this is psychological warfare to terrorize an entire civilian population and force them to leave their homes. This is another Nakba.”

Al-Shabaka (Funded by Switzerland, Germany)

  • On October 16, Al-Shabaka Senior Policy Analyst Yara Hawari published an article titled “Israel’s evacuation order is nothing but cover for ethnic cleansing.” According to the article, “Whichever way you look at it, the situation can only be described as ethnic cleansing and continuation of the Nakba that began in 1948… the evacuation order serves its purpose – it provides cover for the Israeli government to commit mass atrocities by using the age-old fallacy that Hamas is using human shields…the fear is that anyone who is made to leave Gaza now may end up being permanently exiled.”
  • On October 15, Al-Shabaka tweeted, “Israel has dropped more bombs on Gaza in six days than the US dropped on Afghanistan in a single year. The Israeli military is ordering over one million Palestinian civilians to flee their homes. This is genocide & ethnic cleansing.”
  • On October 13, in an interview with The Intercept, Al-Shabaka Board President Tareq Baconi claimed, “We have seen many times before what happens to Palestinians when they are expelled from their homes. We need to understand what the Israeli government is preparing right now in the context of ethnic cleansing.”

Amnesty International

  • On October 13, Amnesty published a statement titled “Appalling Gaza ‘evacuation order’ must be rescinded by Israel immediately,” claiming, “The Israeli army’s order to people in northern Gaza and Gaza city to ‘evacuate’ to the south of the Gaza Strip, cannot be considered an effective warning and may amount to forced displacement of the civilian population, a violation of international humanitarian law…While many Palestinians in northern Gaza are trying to flee, others have told Amnesty International that they are choosing to stay for fear this could become a ‘second Nakba’ as the generational trauma of displacement is etched in the collective memories of many Gazans.” 
  • On October 15, Amnesty tweeted “This is yet another brutal illustration that civilians in Gaza have nowhere safe to go. They fear they will die whether they leave or not. Israel’s order to ‘evacuate’ is NOT compliant w/ IHL & must be rescinded. Civilians must be granted access to safety, medical care & aid.”

Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) (Funded by France)

  • On October 13, AFPS issued a statement writing that “In the early hours of the morning of October 13, 2023, the Israeli army issued an evacuation order to one million Gazan civilians. …A large majority of Gaza residents are forced or have chosen to stay. The Ga-Zaoui authorities denounced this criminal call for expulsion. Humanitarian NGOs highlighted the fact that this request was completely unrealizable. The forced displacement of more than a million inhabitants, in an enclave under blockade for 16 years and counting among the most densely populated areas in the world, seems totally unfeasible…”

CARE (Funded by UN agencies)

  • On October 13, CARE published a statement writing that “We are dismayed by the order given to over one million people in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to evacuate within 24 hours towards the southern part of the enclave. With intense shelling continuing, a lack of transportation, and all utilities now cut, it is simply impossible for such a large number of people – including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and large numbers of wounded in hospitals – to take the road. Additionally, there are no structures – shelter, water, food, medical care, protection – for them on arrival. Innocent Palestinians should not bear the cost of the response to the horrible act of terror perpetrated against innocent Israelis. If such an order stays in place, the humanitarian consequences will be on a scale that we have not seen in the region in recent history.” 

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

  • On October 16, HRW published a statement writing that “The sweeping nature of the Israeli government’s order and the impossibility of safe compliance raise concerns that the purpose is not to protect civilians, but rather to terrify them into leaving their homes. …the order risks forced displacement, which is a war crime.”
  • On October 13, Sari Bashi published an article in the New York Review of Books  titled “Nowhere to Go in Gaza” writing that “This morning the Israeli military ordered more than a million people in northern Gaza to evacuate within twenty-four hours…. There’s nowhere to go, except—for some—to relatives’ overcrowded homes in the southern half of the strip… The evacuation announcement risks mass forced displacement…. Israel’s evacuation order hit a particularly raw nerve for the 70 percent of Gaza residents who are already refugees—having fled their homes in what is now Israel in 1948—and their descendants. They have never been allowed back. That refusal of their right to return is one of the root causes of the current violence.” 
  • On October 11, Roth published an opinion article in The Guardian claiming, “There is also something cruel and otherworldly about the Israeli government’s warning to the people of Gaza to flee. Where? From one densely populated Gaza neighborhood to another as they are pummeled in turn? To Egypt, which has helped Israel reinforce the blockade and has shown no inclination to welcome the 2.2 million residents of the territory? …And if people escaped Gaza, would Israel ever let them return, or would this be another one-way flight as in 1948?”

Joint Statement by Oxfam GB, Action Against Hunger, War Child, Islamic Relief, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Plan International UK, Humanity and Inclusion, Action Aid UK, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Care International UK, Norwegian Refugee Council (Funded by UK, Ireland, EU, Switzerland, Sweden, UN agencies)

  • On October 14, 12 UK NGOs published a statement: “The Government of Israel has ordered the entire population of northern Gaza to evacuate, with a devastating effect. For many it is impossible – there are hospitalised people, children, elderly people and those with disabilities who cannot move.” 

Al Mezan/BDS Movement/Bisan/MIFTAH/Al-Haq/UAWC/HWC/Addameer/DCI-P/PCHR/JLAC/Land Research Centre/Society of St Yves/WCLAC (Funded by Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, EU, Norway, Netherlands, France, Denmark, UN agencies)

Al-Haq (Funded by Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark, UN agencies), 

  • On October 13, Al-Haq Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer Ahmed Abofoul tweeted, “Israel’s demand for the UN to evacuate 1.1M (half of Gaza) to the South reaffirms Israel’s intention to push Gaza to Sinia-Egypte to liquidate the Palestinian cause & fully realise the Zionist settler-colonial dream of eliminating the indigenous Palestinians & stealing their land…If isn’t #EthnicCleansing, I don’t know what is!”


  • On October 13, Caabu published a press release calling on the UK to condemn “Israeli plan for forcible transfer of 1.1 million Palestinians….The southern Gaza strip cannot handle the consequences of what is a mass forcible transfer, a war crime in international law. Moreover, 70% of the population of Gaza are already Palestine refugees. They fear with reason that once they leave they will not be allowed to return….Telling a civilian population to leave when Israel knows full well most cannot is a chilling and terrifying threat that will traumatise the Palestinian civilian population… ”
  • On October 13, Caabu Director Chris Doyle tweeted, “To be clear. This is giving a 24 hour warning of a war crime. Even issuing this is an act of terrorism. Israel knows that this evacuation is imperssible (sic). Imagine for a second the terror created on top of the terror of the bombardment Palestinians are already enduring.”

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) (Funded by Open Society Foundations)

  • On October 13, CIHRS published a statement: “This could amount to deportation and forcible transfer of the Palestinian population as well as risk of starvation and mass death among the civilian population in Gaza resulting from shortages of food, fuel and medicine under the siege imposed by Israel.”

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) (Funded by Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations)

  • On October 14, DAWN Fellow Diana Buttu published an article claiming, “In violation of international law, Israel has ordered Palestinians to leave northern Gaza to the south of the besieged strip, even though it is impossible with roads destroyed and bombs falling.”
  • On October 16, Dawn published an article by its fellow Michael Sfard, writing that “The thought that the refugees of the northern Gaza Strip—some of them serial refugees from 1948—will be pushed over the border into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, without any real guarantees of their return, understandably triggers in them the memory of that expulsion.”

Gisha (Funded by Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, EU, Ireland, Norway, Rockefeller Brothers Fund)

  • On October 13, Gisha published a statement writing, “The transfer of 1.1 million people within the territory cannot be feasibly carried out, will cause grave harm, and appears to be yet another attempt by Israel to absolve itself of any responsibility for massive civilian casualties that could occur in a pending ground invasion among those who are unable, or unwilling, to leave.”

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) (Funded by Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Tides Foundation)

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) (Funded by EU, Germany, UK, Norway, Sweden, UN agencies)

  • On October 13, NRC published a press release demanding that “Israeli ultimatum to Gaza must be reversed.” According to the press release, “The Israeli military demand that 1.2 million civilians in northern Gaza relocate to its south within 24 hours, absent of any guarantees of safety or return, would amount to the war crime of forcible transfer….The collective punishment of countless civilians, among them children, women, and the elderly, in retaliation for acts of horrible terror undertaken by armed men is illegal under international law…” 

Oxfam (Funded by European Union, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Australia)

  • On October 13, Oxfam published a press release claiming, “The world can see that this evacuation order is both utterly inhumane and impossible; the Israeli government must rescind it immediately.”

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)

  • On October 13, PSC tweeted, “If people do leave their homes and try to go south, they know they are not safe from Israel’s attacks there. There is every reason to believe that Israel’s intention is to never allow them to return. Palestinians are rightly fearing another Nakba of mass ethnic cleansing.”
  • On October 13, PSC tweeted, “Israel is seeking to pre-emptively justify the likely mass slaughter of many thousands of civilians, on the basis  that they were warned to leave  and should do so if they care for their lives.”

Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) (Funded by Sweden, Germany, Norway, Spain, Belgium)

  • On October 13, 2023, DCI-P published, “Genocide in Gaza,” quoting a DCI-P official, “Israeli forces have made clear their plans to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, ordering more than a million people to move miles away in less than a day—clearly an impossible task…The international community, led by the U.S. and European Union, are actively enabling the Israeli military to carry out a second Nakba and eradicate the Palestinian people.”

CODEPINK (Funded by Tides Foundation)

  • On October 13, CODEPINK tweeted, “Israel has told one MILLION people with nowhere to go to evacuate within a day (now 12 hours). This is nothing short of ethnic cleansing carried out with US weapons and political support. We cannot let our government keep arming a genocide.”

Joint Statement ICHR, Addameer, Al Mezan, Al-Haq, Hurryyat, DCIP, JLAC, PCHR, PYALARA, MIFTAH, UPWC, PNGO, WCLAC, Bisan, WSC (Funded by Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, EU, Norway, Netherlands, France, Denmark, UN agencies)

Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) (Funded by Switzerland, Sweden)

  • On October 14, AIDA published a statement writing, “the forced relocation, without guarantees of safety or return and a failure to address the needs of the protected population, raise significant concerns of potential forcible transfer, constituting a grave breach of IHL, amounting to a war crime… AIDA urgently calls for the immediate rescindment of this order, emphasizing Israel’s obligation under IHL to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected population.”

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) (Funded by Canada, Switzerland, UN agencies)

  • On October 14, MSF published a statement: “The injunction to nearly 1.1 million people to move in a few hours to an already overpopulated territory with precarious access to food, water and healthcare is as absurd as it is intolerable… MSF is calling for safe zones to remain in the north and for regular ceasefires.”
  • On October 13, MSF tweeted, “Israel’s 24-hour notice that people in Northern Gaza must leave their land, homes and hospitals is outrageous – this represents an attack on medical care and on humanity. We have consistently seen dehumanising language and this violence is a manifestation of that.”