Thousands flee Gaza after Israel warns of further bombing
Tens of thousands of people in northern Gaza have fled their homes following Israeli warnings of an imminent strategic attack on Hamas militants stationed in the area.
Palestinians in the city of Beit Lahiya, home to almost 100,000 residents, received leaflets dispatched on Sunday by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) warning them that Israel would be commencing a large-scale bombing campaign against suspected rocket-launching sites within the city.
The IDF instructed residents to leave the targeted area immediately or place themselves and their families at risk.
According to the UN nearly 17,000 Palestinians have taken heed of the warnings and sought protection from the attacks inside its compounds.
Figures released by the Health Ministry in Gaza show that Israel’s “Operation Protective Shield”, their latest in a series of attacks against Hamas, has resulted in 166 deaths, 36 of those being children, in addition to over 1,000 people being injured, the majority of which were civilians.
Speaking to US broadcaster CBS the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We’re sorry for any accidental civilian deaths but it’s the Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian casualties.”
In response to the intensive Israeli attacks, Palestinian militants on Friday launched a missile striking close to the city of Haifa – the third-largest in the country – demonstrating that Israel is now vulnerable to direct attacks from Gaza.
In a cabinet meeting on Sunday Mr Netanyahu said: “We do not know when the operation will end. It might take a long time.”
The IDF stepped up their campaign in Gaza in June after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in Jerusalem.
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has flown to Israel today in an attempt to engineer truce between the two sides.