Middle East

Thousands flee for cover as Israel raids Gaza

Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an Israeli airstrike in Gaza August 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot)

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

An AFP 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, told AFP 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 cease-fire is over. I'm taking my family to my relatives' house in western Gaza City. It's safer there."

The United Nations said Monday that more than 237,600 Palestinians were already seeking shelter at 81 UN schools across the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, Israel ordered its negotiators back from talks in Cairo and warplanes hit targets in Gaza after Palestinian rockets smashed into the country's south, violating a 24-hour truce.

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 (2100 GMT).

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.





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