Israel Urges Evacuation of Gaza Strip As Airstrikes Against Palestine Continue
As Israel continues to launch rockets at Hamas targets, the Israeli military encouraged residents to evacuate the Gaza Strip on Saturday. The call to evacuate comes just 24 hours before the Israel Defense Forces will launch a new airstrike offensive on the northern Gaza region, according to a statement from an IDF official. The IDF also urged Gaza residents via Twitter to leave their homes on Saturday.
"We are going to attack there with great force in the next 24 hours due to a very large concentration of Hamas efforts in that area," military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz said in the statement.
According to The Jerusalem Post, evacuation has already begun in the area. The northern Gaza region has been in the crossfire of the long-range rockets being fired between Israel and Palestine over the last week.
An Israeli military source told The Post that civilians will be evacuated "for their own safety" before the heavy offensive begins. The source added that Hamas leaders are currently "hiding under homes and using human shields" in the coastal Gaza region.
Israel launched its offensive against Hamas, Operation Protective Edge, on Tuesday following Hamas-led attacks on towns in southern Israel. The IDF said via Twitter last week that more than 100 rockets were fired at Israel on Monday night alone. These latest attacks were triggered by two separate crimes: The murders of three Jewish Israeli teens kidnapped in the West Bank, and the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager, whose body was found burned and beaten in the Jerusalem Forest.
Violence in the region escalated over the last 24 hours when the Israeli military fired a rocket at a Gaza mosque. The military also reportedly attacked a home for disabled people, killing two women there. Several Hamas-affiliated charities have also been hit.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra told The Associated Press that the death toll currently stands at 135, with more than 900 wounded. Many of the casualties are Hamas militants, but The AP reported that dozens of civilians are also among the dead.
Although United Nations officials have called for a cease-fire in the turbulent region, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu said he won't be swayed by the international community. "No amount of international pressure will prevent Israel from continuing its operation in the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu told reporters Friday at a press conference in Tel Aviv. "The military operation in Gaza will continue until quiet is restored to the citizens of Israel."