Thousands of Gaza civilians flee after Israeli warning

Written by Reuters | Gaza/Jerusalem | Updated: Jul 14 2014, 05:41am hrs
Thousands fled their homes in a Gaza town on Sunday after Israel warned them to leave ahead of threatened attacks on rocket-launching sites, on the sixth day of an offensive that Palestinian officials said has killed at least 160 people.

Those who fail to comply with the instructions will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware, read a leaflet dropped by the Israeli military in the town of Beit Lahiya, near the border with Israel.

Militants in the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip kept up rockets salvoes deep into the Jewish state and the worst bout of Israel-Palestinian bloodshed in two years showed no signs of abating despite mounting international pressure to cease fire.

A Palestinian woman and a girl, aged 3, were killed in Israeli air strikes early on Sunday, Gazas Health Ministry said. Hours earlier, the ministry said 18 people were killed when the house of Gazas police chief was bombed from the air in the single deadliest attack of Israels offensive.

Despite intensified Israeli military action which included a commando raid overnight in what was Israels first reported ground action in Gaza during the current fighting militants continued to launch rocket after rocket across the border.

A long-range salvo on Sunday morning triggered air raid sirens at Tel Avivs Ben-Gurion international airport, which has not been hit in the hostilities and where flights have been operating normally, and some city suburbs.

On Saturday night, Hamas the Islamist movement that rules Gaza made good on a threat to send rockets streaking toward Tel Aviv at 9 pm (2.00 pm EDT) and other areas in heavily populated central Israel.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis sought shelter as Palestinians in the streets of Gaza City cheered the launchings, the biggest strike yet on the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

Those rockets and the ones unleashed on Sunday were intercepted by the Israeli-built, and partly US-funded, Iron Dome missile defense system that has proved effective against Hamass 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 nights barrage, customers in Tel Aviv beachfront cafes shouted their approval as they watched the projectiles being shot out of the sky.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 160 Palestinians, including about 135 civilians among them some 30 children, have been killed six days of warfare, and more than 1,000 have been wounded.

Israeli leaflets dropped on Beit Lahiya, where 70,000 Palestinians live, said civilians in three of its 10 neighbourhoods were requested to evacuate their residences and move deeper into the Gaza Strip, by 12 pm.