Hamas called on Palestinian residents of the northern Gaza Strip to "immediately return" to their homes, after the IDF warned locals to evacuate the area at noon to avoid being harmed in any military operation.
A spokesperson for UNRWA in Gaza claimed that some 4,000 Palestinians had evacuated their homes and headed for UN facilities and shelters in the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas Interior Ministry released a statement titled "Urgent call to the residents of the Gaza Strip" in which locals were told to ignore the calls and warnings made by Israel and the IDF. "To all of our people who have evacuated their homes – return to them immediately and do not leave the house."
"You must follow the directives of the Interior Ministry. This is psychological warfare, random messages to instill panic in people."
The ministry statement also attempted to calm the local population. "We are following developments on the ground moment by moment, especially on the border. If it becomes necessary to take a step to protect the Palestinian people, we will send directives using local communication tools to keep you safe and provide all the necessary measures."
"We have identified more rocket fire from the northern Strip than other sectors and this morning we are calling on the population to evacuate from there ahead of an escalation of (Israeli) attacks," the IDF said Sunday morning.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced that the military has airdropped leaflets on the northern Gaza Strip with similar messages. Locals have also been sent pre-recorded messages and video clips.
"It is the intention of the IDF to attack from the air terror infrastructure and terrorists in the area east of Al-Attara," the leaflets warn. "Residents must evacuate their homes by 12 pm, noon, today heading south towards Jabalia."
The Israeli warnings told Gaza residents that "the IDF operation will be temporary and short. Those who do not adhere to these directives will jeopardize their own lives and the lives of their families. Be careful, stay safe."
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report.