Empty Evacuation Orders in Gaza, Daily Brief December 6, 2023

Daily Brief, December 6, 2023.


With its bombardment of Gaza continuing, the Israeli military has been issuing warnings for people in south Gaza to evacuate. Via social media and other means, they’ve sent QR codes: just use your phone to click and download a map to know where to go to be safe.

Those who think this sounds reasonable – a modern way to protect civilians in war – are ignoring reality on at least three levels.

First, the Israeli military has been cutting power to Gaza, so good luck charging your phone to access that map. They’ve also been cutting communications, so even if you find a charge, you may not get a signal.

Second, the maps the Israeli military has issued have been full of errors. They’ve had to correct them multiple times, leading to confusion among those desperate to find safety.

Third, and most critically, there is no safe place to flee to. It’s not like the Israeli military is promising not to bomb certain places. They are sending people to smaller and ever more crowded areas without any guarantees of protection. As we’ve said here previously, under international humanitarian law – the “laws of war” – warring parties have an obligation to protect civilians, and they’re encouraged to warn them, where such warnings can help keep civilians safe. But given all three points above, these current warnings would seem to fail that basic test and for that reason: they’re not effective.

What’s more, people who cannot or do not evacuate an area still have protections under the laws of war against indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. No military force in any conflict can just make an announcement and then bomb an area with no regard for civilians there – no matter how many warnings it gives and no matter in what form, QR codes or otherwise.