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Middle East

Thousands flee northern Gaza after Israeli warning

© Thomas Coex, AFP | Smoke rises from a building in Gaza following an Israeli air strike

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-14

Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes after the Israeli military warned it planned to bomb northern Gaza. Israel struck targets in the Gaza Strip for a sixth day on Sunday as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.

The exodus began after Israel dropped leaflets on Beit Lahiya, a town near Gaza’s northern border, early in the morning which said that, “Those who fail to comply with the instructions to leave immediately will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware.”

Some of those fleeing raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags. “Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave,” said one resident, Mohammed Abu Halemah.

The UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides assistance to Palestinian refugees, said some 17,000 people had left their homes to seek shelter at its schools in Gaza.

The two sides have ignored international calls for a ceasefire.

The Gaza Health Ministry said that at least 160 Palestinians – among them about 135 civilians, including 30 children – have been killed since the conflict began. There have been no reports of Israeli deaths, though several people have been wounded.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to voice the United States “readiness” to help restore calm, while Egypt, a key mediator between Israel and the militant group Hamas, continued to work behind the scenes.

Amid the diplomacy, Israel said it was pushing forward with preparations for a possible ground invasion of Gaza. Thousands of troops have massed along the border in recent days.

“We don’t know when the operation will end,” Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday. “It might take a long time.” He said the military was prepared “for all possibilities.”

Israel began targeting position in Gaza last Tuesday in what it said was a response to heavy rocket fire out of the Palestinian enclave. The military says it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes, while militants have fired more than 800 rockets at Israel.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-07-14

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