Thousands of people are fleeing a border town in the Gaza Strip after Israel dropped leaflets warning of stepped up attacks on the sixth day of an offensive. Meanwhile, an Israeli commando squad crossed into Gaza today to destroy a Hamas rocket-launching site.
The commando raid is the first incursion of Israeli troops into Gaza since the beginning of the offensive, which Palestinian officials say has killed 160 people.
The air-dropped leaflets warned residents that failure to comply with instructions to evacuate “will endanger their lives and the loves of their families,” according to Reuters. The area is home to at least 100,000 people.
The BBC quotes the Israel’s military as confirming that it dropped leaflets in the area this morning.
“We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe,” the IDF said.
Families in the northern border town of Beit Lahiya “are piling their kids and belongings into carts and cars and crowding into schools for shelter,” NPR’s Emily Harris reports.
“Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave,” said Mohammad Abu Halemah, according to The Associated Press.
The AP says:
“On Sunday, Palestinians with foreign passports began leaving Gaza through the Erez border crossing. Israel, which is cooperating in the evacuation, says 800 Palestinians living in Gaza have passports from countries including Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
“U.S. citizen Ahmed Mohana said he had mixed feelings about leaving friends and family behind in the troubled Gaza Strip.
“‘It is very hard, it is very tough,’ he said. ‘We are leaving our family, our relatives and brothers and sisters in this horrible situation -we have to do what we have to do.’”
On Saturday night, Hamas made good on threats to fire rockets on Tel Aviv.
“Those rockets and the ones unleashed on Sunday were intercepted by the Israeli-built, and partly U.S.-funded, Iron Dome missile defense system that has proved effective against Hamas’s most powerful weaponry.
“No one has been killed by the more than 800 rockets the Israeli military said has been fired since the offensive began, and during Saturday night’s barrage, customers in Tel Aviv beachfront cafes shouted their approval as they watched the projectiles being shot out of the sky.”