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Israel gets ready for invasion; thousands flee Gaza

July 14, 2014 10:26 IST

Israel gets ready for invasion; thousands flee Gaza

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Thousands of Palestinians are fleeing their homes inside northern Gaza after the Israeli military threatened to widen its assault that has killed nearly 170 people in six days.

Ignoring global calls for a ceasefire, Israeli troops -- thought to be naval commandos -- briefly entered Gaza on Sunday and raided a missile launching site. This is the first time Israeli forces have acknowledged they've entered Gaza in what appeared to be the ground assault.

Israel has been building up its troops along the border with northern Gaza, fuelling speculation of a possible ground invasion.

During the incursion, which lasted about half an hour, both sides exchanged gunfire at the launch site, an Israeli military source said. Four Israeli troops suffered light injuries, but all the soldiers returned home safely, the source said.

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Image: Palestinians, who fled their homes that are adjacent to the border with Israel, ride a motorised rickshaw as they make their way to stay at a United Nations-run school, in the northern Gaza Strip
Photographs: Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

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The Israeli jets later dropped leaflets at Beit Lahiya, home to about 100,000 people, warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of their "short and temporary" campaign to begin on Monday.

"The Israeli Defence Forces intends to attack terrorists and terror infrastructures ..." the leaflets said, mentioning a list of areas that will be targeted. Israel is currently attacking, and will continue to attack, every area from which rockets are being launched at its territory."

The Palestinian death toll from the Israeli air strikes hit 168 with another 1,120 people wounded, the emergency services said.

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Image: The son (left) of one of the Palestinian members of Tayseer Al-Batsh's family, who hospital officials said were killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns during their funeral in Gaza City. The Israeli air strike on the family home of Al-Batsh, Gaza's police chief, killed 18 people on Saturday, Gaza's health ministry said
Photographs: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

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Israel gets ready for invasion; thousands flee Gaza

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About 17,000 people, fearing for their lives, have taken shelter in installations of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said its spokesman Chris Gunness in a statement. 

Meanwhile, around 800 Palestinians holding dual citizenship have reportedly begun leaving Gaza via Israel's Erez Crossing.

Israel carried out overnight air strikes against Gaza's security headquarters and police stations, in the heaviest bombardment since operations began on July 8.

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Image: An Israeli armoured vehicle drives across a field near central Gaza Strip
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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A senior security official has said the operation in northern Gaza is necessary because the area accounts for far more rocket attacks than other areas.

The IDF struck 200 targets in Gaza over the past 24 hours, including civilian institutions and mosques with suspected Hamas ties.

The other targets include 53 underground rocket launchers, 11 rocket production and storage centres, nine Hamas command and control centres, and five training camps. 


Image: Smoke rises following what police said was an Israeli tank's shelling that hit the industrial area in the east of Gaza City
Photographs: Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

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