Thousands flee as Israel raids Gaza

August 20, 2014 - 1:49:05 am
Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday.

GAZA CITY: Thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in neighbourhoods of eastern Gaza City yesterday, carrying bags of clothes, pillows and mattresses after renewed Israeli air strikes, witnesses said.

A reporter saw hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of Shejaiya, an area devastated by more than a month of fighting between Israel and the Islamist movement which rules Hamas.

Thousands more were leaving the Zeitun and Shaaf areas, alarmed by a series of explosions and heading to shelter in UN schools, the witnesses said.

Families walked from their homes, or weighed down vehicles and donkey carts with flimsy mattresses and supplies. “We’ve heard explosions. My kids were scared so I’m taking them back to the UNRWA school where we spent the war,” said Um Mohammed Bakrun, walking in the street with her sister and four children.

Said Hilis, carrying bags, said that he had heard shelling next to his home. “We’re nervous. We heard on the radio that the resistance have fired rockets from Gaza and (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu had ordered the army to respond,” he said.

“I think the ceasefire is over. I’m taking my family to my relatives’ house in western Gaza City. It’s safer there.”

The United Nations said on Monday that more than 237,600 Palestinians were already seeking shelter at 81 UN schools across the Gaza Strip. Yesterday, Israel ordered its negotiators back from talks in Cairo and warplanes hit targets in Gaza after Palestinian rockets smashed into the country’s south. Nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza came to an abrupt halt when rockets struck Israel just hours before the truce was to expire at midnight local time. Israel immediately ordered a military response, with warplanes striking targets across the coastal strip. Five Palestinians were wounded, three in the northern area of Beit Lahiya — two of them boys — and two boys aged six and nine in the southern city of Rafah, the emergency services spokesman said.

Meanwhile, an Islamist Palestinian group based in Gaza has been placed on the US terrorist black list, the State Department announced yesterday.

Since its founding in 2012, the “Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem” has claimed responsibility for a number of rocket attacks on Israel and a cross-border attack with explosives that killed a civilian at an Israeli construction site, according to the State Department.

AFP

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