Gaza campaign enters seventh day

By BBC

Israel says nearly 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza

Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rocket fire on Israel have continued as Israel’s operation against Palestinian militants entered its seventh day.

Palestinian officials say 172 people in Gaza have been killed since the offensive began last Tuesday.

Israel says nearly 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza in that time. It said it shot down a Palestinian drone near Ashdod on Monday morning.

Earlier, thousands of people fled from northern Gaza after an Israeli warning.

The Israeli military dropped leaflets over the town of Beit Lahiya, warning of impending attacks.

Israel has massed thousands of troops on the border with Gaza amid warnings it is prepared to launch a ground invasion.

Israeli commandos carried out their first reported ground incursion on Sunday, attacking a suspected rocket launch site.

In the latest developments:

  • The UN says 17,000 Palestinians in northern Gaza have sought refuge in its facilities.
  • Israeli air strikes early on Monday hit three training facilities of Hamas’s military wing and buildings in Gaza city, causing injuries, AFP reported
  • Rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel, drawing Israel artillery in response
  • A rocket fired from Gaza hit electricity infrastructure in Israel that supplied power to Gaza, cutting power to about 70,000 people, the Israeli military said

Arab foreign ministers are due to meet in Cairo on Monday to discuss the crisis, as casualties mount.

The UN has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians. However Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt-Col Peter Lerner disputed the figures, saying they were based on Hamas sources and were not objective.

Col Lerner told the BBC that Israel had aborted certain attacks for fear of killing civilians.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and “terror sites”, including the homes of senior operatives.

 

Nowhere to go’

The military confirmed it had dropped leaflets over the city of Beit Lahiya on Sunday morning telling civilians to seek shelter.

“We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe,” the IDF said.

UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said in a tweet that the agency had doubled its spaces for displaced people from 10,000 to 20,000.

Meanwhile, about 800 Palestinians holding dual citizenship began leaving Gaza via Israel’s Erez Crossing.

However, Gaza resident Sawla el Tibi told the BBC it was too dangerous to leave her home. “[There is] no safety at all to walk on the street… all of Gaza Strip is burning right now,” she said.

The Palestinian Authority’s envoy in the UK, Manuel Hassassian, told BBC News there was nowhere for Gaza residents to hide.

“There are no shelters, no bunkers, no place to go, except their homes,” he said. “If they leave their homes, they will be hit on the street.”

Early on Sunday, Israeli air strikes destroyed most of the security headquarters and police stations run by Hamas Islamist militants.

Diplomatic drive

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

Defending Israel’s actions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US broadcaster CBS: “We’re sorry for any accidental civilian deaths but it’s the Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian casualties.”

The IDF says it has so far struck some 1,320 “terror” sites across Gaza, while Hamas has launched more than 800 rockets at Israel.

At least three Israelis have been seriously injured since the violence erupted, but no Israelis have been killed by the attacks.

A Palestinian health ministry spokesman has said 1,260 people have been injured in Gaza.

France on Sunday again condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, but also called on Israel to “show restraint” in its Gaza campaign and avoid civilian casualties.

Germany is sending Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Israel on Monday for talks with Israelis and Palestinians to help negotiate an end to the violence.

The UN Security Council has called for a ceasefire and renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rocket fire and air strikes increased after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June and the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Israel and militants in Gaza fought an eight-day war in November 2012, which ended with a truce.