Israel intensifies campaign
Homes of senior Hamas leaders targeted
Residents told to leave Gaza border areas
Israel on Wednesday intensified air attacks in the Gaza Strip, targeting the homes of four senior leaders of the Islamic militant movement. It also told tens of thousands of residents to leave Gaza’s border areas ahead of more strikes.
The Palestinian death toll in nine days of fighting rose to 208, with some 1,450 wounded, Palestinian health officials said. On the Israeli side, one man was killed and several people were wounded since the fighting erupted on July 8.
The renewed bombings came a day after Israel initially accepted an Egyptian truce proposal that called for a halt of hostilities. That was to be followed by talks on the terms of a longer-term ceasefire, including easing Gaza’s seven-year-old border blockade by Israel and Egypt.
The website of the Gaza Interior Ministry said Israel warplanes carried out dozens of air strikes before dawn Wednesday, targeting 30 houses, including those of senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar, Jamila Shanti, Fathi Hamas and Ismail Ashkar.
Alongside the air strikes, Israel also told tens of thousands of residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighborhoods of Gaza City, all near the border with Israel, to evacuate their homes by 8 a.m. Wednesday.
The warnings were delivered in automated phone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped from planes.
The Israeli military said in its message that large numbers of rockets were launched from these areas and that Israel plans to bomb these locations.
“Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families,” the message said.
On Wednesday morning, hundreds of residents of Zeitoun and Shijaiyah were seen walking in the streets, carrying small bags with belongings.
Older children carried smaller ones, in their arms or on their backs. Some of the women and children cried, looking terrified.