JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces dropped leaflets above areas in the northern Gaza Strip warning Palestinian civilians to evacuate their homes in advance of a military campaign to destroy rocket launchers.
“The IDF’s campaign is to be short and temporary,” the messages said. “Those who fail to comply with the instructions will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware.”
The residents of Beit Lahiya, a city of more than 75,000 in northern Gaza, also received text messages and recorded messages by phone calling on them to leave by noon Sunday.
At least 4,000 Palestinians had evacuated their homes by the deadline, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency. They sought refuge in facilities run by UNRWA, a United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees, according to the report.
Hamas reportedly called on Gazans to ignore Israeli warnings of specific attacks and not to evacuate their homes.
According to Maan, at least 166 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s current operation in Gaza.