Israel Warns People To Leave Gaza As Cease-Fire Debate Continues
A picture taken from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing from the coastal Palestinian enclave following an Israeli airstrike Wednesday. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Less than a day after a cease-fire seemed possible, Israel warned tens of thousands of Gaza residents to leave their homes ahead of fresh strikes. Those who received the warning were given until 8 a.m. local time Wednesday to leave.
The messages were delivered via text messages, phone calls and leaflets dropped from planes. The airstrikes that followed targeted Hamas leaders.
“The Israeli military says it has carried out airstrikes on at least three-dozen targets in Gaza today,” Daniel Estrin reports for NPR from Jerusalem. “Gaza officials say the homes of four senior Hamas leaders were attacked. And dozens of rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. At least 16 rockets landed in Israel, and at least 10 rockets were intercepted midair — some of them above the Tel Aviv area.”
Hamas has fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel since the current conflict began last week, Israeli defense officials say.
Israel suffered its first fatality of the fighting yesterday; in Gaza, the death toll is far higher — more than 200 people, according to Palestinian officials.
Tuesday’s promise of a possible peace deal backed by Egypt was dashed within hours, as leaders of Hamas said they had never been consulted about the deal. Their rejection came after Israel’s security Cabinet approved the cease-fire deal by a split vote; the country’s military then suspended airstrikes on Gaza, in accordance with the plan. The attacks resumed after several hours.
The spurned deal has deepened divisions within the Israeli government, NPR’s Ari Shapiro reports:
“Some Cabinet ministers are vocally criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who voted against the cease-fire proposal, says Israel’s army should conquer the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Netanyahu fired his deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, after Danon said that Hamas humiliated Israel.”