News / Middle East

    Thousands Flee Gaza Homes Under Israel Threat

    Israeli soldiers stand atop a tank at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip, July 13, 2014.
    Israeli soldiers stand atop a tank at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip, July 13, 2014.
    VOA News

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expressing alarm at the continuing violence between Israelis and Palestinians and demanding both sides take immediate steps to end the fighting.

    In a statement late Sunday, Ban said rocket fire by Hamas militants into Israel goes against international law, while "too many Palestinians have been killed" by Israeli airstrikes.  He said any potential Israeli ground offensive would surely lead to more casualties.

    Palestinian officials say more than 160 people have been killed, including militants, since Israel launched its offensive to end Hamas rocket fire last Tuesday.

    The U.N.'s children's agency said Monday that 33 children are among those who have died, and that young people are "bearing the brunt" of the violence.

    It joined the U.N. Security Council's call from Saturday for an immediate cease-fire.

    Thousands fled their homes in a Gaza town on Sunday after Israel warned them to leave ahead of threatened attacks on rocket-launching sites, on the sixth day of an offensive that Palestinian officials said has killed at least 160 people.

    "Those who fail to comply with the instructions will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware," read a leaflet dropped by the Israeli military in the town of Beit Lahiya, near the border with Israel.

    Despite intensified Israeli military action - which included a commando raid overnight in what was Israel's first reported ground action in Gaza during the current fighting - militants continued to launch rocket after rocket across the border.

    Commandos targeted what Israel called a rocket-launching site. Authorities said four Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded during an exchange of gunfire with Palestinian fighters.

    Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.
    Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.
    Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.

    Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appearing on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, discussed Israel's goals for the offensive, but not the intended methods to achieve them.

    “Our goal is to achieve sustainable quiet and security for our people, and we are doing that by degrading Hamas and other terror capabilities.  I am not going to say right now how or when that goal will be achieved," Netanyahu said.

    Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others to end the increasingly bloody offensive that has claimed at least 160 Palestinian lives and injuring about 1,000.

    Several Israeli citizens have been wounded, but no one killed, by Palestinian rockets, which are being launched at longer range than in previous conflicts. Israeli defense forces credit their Iron Dome missile defense system, which intercepts rockets in mid-air, with preventing greater casualties.

    With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza's borders, some fear that could signal a wider ground offensive that would cause heavy casualties.

    Drone shot down

    Israel said it shot down a drone from Gaza on Monday, the first reported deployment of an unmanned aircraft by Palestinian militants whose rocket attacks have been regularly intercepted.

    Hamas said its armed wing had sent several drones to carry out “special missions” deep inside Israel - a development which, if confirmed, would mark a step up in the sophistication of its arsenal.

    More than 166 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, Gaza health officials said, in seven days of fighting that has shown no sign of ending.

    The Israeli military said the drone was intercepted near the port of Ashdod by a U.S.-built Patriot missile, used largely ineffectively by Israel against Iraqi Scud missiles in the 1991 Gulf War.

    The force was trying to locate debris in the area about 15 miles north of Gaza, and determine whether it had carried explosives.

    Hundreds of airstrikes

    Israel has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since the offensive began, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Sunday.

    Palestinian militants have launched more than 800 rockets at Israel, including 130 in the last 24 hours, the Israeli military said Sunday. 

    Israeli leaflets dropped on Beit Lahiya, where 70,000 Palestinians live, said civilians in three of its 10 neighborhoods were "requested to evacuate their residences" and move south, deeper into the Gaza Strip, by 12 p.m. (0900 GMT).

    The Gaza Interior Ministry, in a statement on Hamas radio, dismissed the Israeli warnings as “psychological warfare” and instructed those who left their homes to return and others to stay put.

    The warnings cited roads that residents could use safely and said Israeli forces intended to attack "every area from where rockets are being launched."

    It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive - something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake.

    It was the first time Israel had warned Palestinians to vacate dwellings in such a wide area.

    Previous warnings, by telephone or so-called "knock-on-the-door" missiles without explosive warheads, had been directed at individual homes slated for attack.

    Thousands flee

    At least 4,000 people fled Beit Lahiya and crowded into eight U.N.-run schools in Gaza City on Sunday, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said.

    At schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City, Beit Lahiya residents arrived in donkey carts filled with children, luggage and mattresses, while others came by car or taxi. One man, still in his pajamas, said some inhabitants had received phone calls warning them to clear out.

    "What could we do? We had to run in order to save the lives of our children," said Salem Abu Halima, 25, a father of two.

    Many foreign nationals and Palestinians with duel nationalities are leaving the Gaza Strip.

    An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.
    An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.
    An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.

    Israel also continued its airstrikes, targeting areas across Gaza early Sunday, ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire as the conflict entered its sixth day.

    “We don't know when the operation will end,” Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Sunday. “It might take a long time.”

    A Palestinian woman and a girl aged 3 were killed in Israeli air strikes early on Sunday, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

    Overnight, an Israel strike overnight flattened the home of the Gaza police chief, killing at least 18 people in the deadliest attack since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza Tuesday.

    The strike also badly damaged a nearby mosque, wounding scores of people.  Some worshippers are still believed to be trapped in the rubble.

    An earlier airstrike Saturday also hit a mosque. Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Libby Weiss said the building was being used by Hamas militants. 

    "It's important to note that this was a mosque that was used almost entirely for Hamas operations. Meaning as a structure perhaps, yes it was a mosque, but it was very clear that it was being used, and I would say almost hijacked by Hamas for terror purposes," Weiss said.
    The United Nations humanitarian affairs office has said 135 of the 160 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes since operations began have been civilians.
    Netanyahu said Friday Israel is considering all military options despite international calls for a cease-fire.

    With the worsening situation in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he has appealed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for "international protection" for the Palestinian people.

    Blamed Hamas

    On Sunday, Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the ongoing military offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying responsibility for any casualties lies with the Palestinian militants.

    "Who is hiding in mosques? Hamas. Who puts weapons arsenals beneath hospitals? Hamas. Who puts headquarters in residential areas or near primary schools? Hamas," Netanyahu said.

    "Hamas is using the residents of Gaza as human shields and is bringing a catastrophe upon the citizens of Gaza and that's why the responsibility for any casualties among the civilians of Gaza, which Israel regrets, that responsibility lies with Hamas and its collaborators," he said.

    Netanyahu went on to blame Iran for funding, arming and training Hamas, saying that the meeting in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program must prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon.

    Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.
    Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.
    Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, July 13, 2014.

    If they fail to do so, Netanyahu said, "What is happening around here and what is happening in the Middle East, will be several times worse or maybe beyond that."

    Britain, France and Turkey have expressed concerns about the loss of life in Gaza. U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S. is willing to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities, while backing "Israel's right to defend itself.

    Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, head of a Palestinian academic society in Jerusalem (PASSIA), said both Israeli and Palestinian leadership have shown little willingness to back down.

    "Netanyahu is refusing any reconciliation, any negotiations, any halting of the operations and he is carrying on the mission as usual," Hadi said. "The same thing, Hamas is going forward as planned, saying whatever will happen will happen to all of us."
    Israel claims to have hit more than 1,100 targets inside Gaza since operations began. The military has called up more than 30,000 reservists and is now weighing whether to begin ground operations in Gaza.

    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will travel to the Middle East on Monday, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said, where he will meet Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, German media reported.

    Steinmeier called for an end to “Hamas rocket terror,” in comments to newspaper Bild am Sonntag published on Sunday, and urged a “coalition of reason” to stop the conflict escalating.

    UN calls for cease-fire

    The U.N. Security Council called for a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    In a statement Saturday, the 15-member council called for a de-escalation of the violence, a restoration of calm, and a reinstitution of a 2012 Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between the two sides.

    This is the first official response to the crisis by the powerful U.N. body, which has been divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Western foreign ministers meeting on Sunday said a ceasefire was an urgent priority.

    Also Sunday, Pope Francis led tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in unannounced, silent prayer for an end to the warfare in the Middle East, the Associated Press reported.

    Francis called for insistent prayers for peace in the Holy Land during his Sunday window appearance to pilgrims and tourists.

    He said he didn't consider "in vain" the June 8 peace prayer gathering he hosted at the Vatican attended by the Israeli and Palestinian presidents.

    Francis, who made a Middle East pilgrimage in May, urged people to avoid concluding that "violence and hatred win out over dialogue and reconciliation."

    Hostilities along the Israel-Gaza frontier first intensified last month after Israeli forces arrested hundreds of Hamas activists in the Israeli-occupied West Bank following the abduction there of three Jewish teenagers who were later found killed.

    A Palestinian youth was then killed in Jerusalem in a suspected revenge attack by Israelis.

    WATCH: Gaza Fighting Takes Civilian Toll - report by Zlatica Hoke

    Gaza Fighting Takes Civilian Tolli
    Zlatica Hoke
    July 12, 2014 10:47 AM
    Fighting between Hamas forces in Gaza and Israel's military has left about 100 people dead in the coastal Mediterranean strip, most of them civilians. Israelis living close to the border with Gaza have a well-developed system of air raids and bomb shelters where they retreat as needed. In Gaza, there are no sirens and no bomb shelters. Zlatica Hoke reports on how civilians on both sides are faring fare during the conflict.

    Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
    by: Jeannie Ramberg from: US
    July 19, 2014 12:22 PM
    To me this seems like an offensive that Israel cannot win. With the amount of missile strikes and the high incidence of civilian casualities are they really destroying the Quassam brigade capabilities to continue rocket fire? The seem to be losing the war in the media and world opinion. Also, now with the ground offense what is the intended goal? If they take out Hamas control then they therefore take control of Gaza and required to take care of the population, rebuilding and providing. I dont think Israel wants to go that far. If their goal is to punish Gazans, then that goal is achieved of course but in the long run Israel just seems to set itself back in the long run. The Palestinians in Gaza dont have anything to lose anymore at this point. I would imagine a person in Gaza is not going to care either way whether Hamas is in control or Israel. Their lives will not change much after the smoke and dust clear from this onslaught.

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    July 15, 2014 2:05 AM
    The commander in chief of the arm forces of America, President Obama in a speech today, said Israel has the right to defend itself. He went on and say on country will take rockets firing into its country from another country, And this is what we all who support Israel has been saying. Even the President has agreed with us. Is President Obama wrong for saying that? No.
    We are in sympathy with the civilians of the so call Palestine, But at the same token, you have Hamas to blamed for everything that is happening to your. They know very well Israel will retaliate, But yet and still choose to fired at Israel. They know Israel will fired back at their position, no matter where they hit their Rockets, it could among civilians, Israel will fire back. Then why do they fired rocket into Israel, if they know Israel will fire back? They are the problem.
    Then all these conflicts that have been going on is Hamas, not Israel. Hamas must stop firing their rockets into Israel, then there will be peace in the region. Hamas cannot keep suffering its own people like that. according to BBC News today, Hamas said the fighting will continue, Once again they are the one with the people. Cuz if they keep firing rockets into Israel, Israel will keep responding to their fire.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 15, 2014 1:54 AM
    Remember, people like Meanbill wish only to fan the falmes of hatred and murder. He exemplifies twisted logic and complete historical ignorance to justify his pathetic existence.

    Murder and unspeakable evils are being committed in the name of religion. If we all wish for this madness to end, then we all need ot figure out how. Whether we came out of the caves, or out of the Garden of Eden, we are failing miserably! It is getting worse.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 15, 2014 1:49 AM
    Yeah, right on Albert! Jews, the chosen ones! People are just jealous that God chose them. God chose them to defend Israel, even if women, children, and babies are slaughtered in the process. Yep, Albert, they are just jealous! Behold, the Jews, they believe that God murdered children (first-born) to prove a point to the Pharaoh. Yep, jealous and anti-Semitic! Behold, the Jews, they believe that God murdered women and children and babies because Sodom and Gomorrah was bad. I guess the babies in those cities were partying like it was Spring Break! Behold, the Jews, that Lot chose 10 of his card-playing buddies to not be slaughtered in Sodom and Gomorrah, instead of asking to save all the children and babies! NO! He didn't!!! And we are supposed to believe that this is who our God is???? That our God murdered babies (first born, you know, Moses, Pharaoh) just to prove his power to the Pharaoh??? And they celebrate a murdering God every year?? Passover??? Have we lost our minds????? When Jesus came and told the jewish elders to stop publishing distorted facts about His Father, that they murdered him as well.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 14, 2014 2:29 AM
    Religious/political madness is plaguing this planet worse then ever. Even the Dark Ages look like Disneyland compared to the events of the day.

    Our time on this place we call earth, our home, for all of us, will end and become a miserable place of existence because of twisted and distorted beliefs. No matter how you believe in God, no matter what religion you feel the most comfoartable with, you really have to ask "Is this what God truly wants for the mankind he created?"

    For those of you who believe that we came out of the caves one day and said let's make a civilization. Is this what we intended to happen to us?

    In Response

    by: Dashaun Lipscomb from: Reno, NV
    July 14, 2014 11:21 AM
    If we do not wake up and love each other from the heart, there may be a war on the street or World War III. It is sad, but it seems some would rather die than give an inch. The state of man is almost over. I honestly do not think it will get better for anyone period.


    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 14, 2014 2:29 AM
    It is these Abramic religions that are destroying us, global warming/climate change is petty compared ot these religions. I, myself, am a Christian, I do believe that great men like Jesus, Muhammed, Abraham, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, Gandhi, Buddha, Confuscius, Plato, etc did their very best to give us the knowledge and power to propel mankind beyond the need for any belief system that excludes all men. Have we all noticed that the teachings of such great men have had book, bibles, and religious text written about them long after their deaths? Why? The was plenty of writing media for Muhammed when he was alive. Jesus was supposed ot be a rabbi, therefore he had the ability to write! Abraham chiseled not one word about his meetings with the angels, I damn sure would have!!! Abraham was Iraqi, so of course the Garden Of Eden originated from his home, next to the Tigris and Euphrates! The Jews were liberated from the Pharaoh just to enslave those they found on the way to the land of Milk and Honey! Jesus said "through me you will be saved," that didn't help the native Americans (north and south) who were slaughtered in the name of Jesus!

    Mankind needs serious help with this. More than therapy. We have allowed the views of a few men to kill women, children, babies, just because they said their God wanted such things to happen. Babies! God murdered babies (first born) in order to set His people free. Babies!!!! Why would anyone believe this insanity? Not only do people believe that God kills innocent lives, but also celebrate that every year with Passover! Why? God used all his might and power to free the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, because they were slaves.............God did nothing for His 'chosen people' while the Nazis were doing the most horrific and evil things to the Jewish little girls with their father's eyes taped open so that they can watch!!!! Have we lost our minds believing things like this!!!

    Religion is destroying us, all of us. With nuclear weapons at the disposal of these religious ideologies, the inevitable will occur. Muslims will not accept defeat. Jews will not accept defeeat. Christians are too self-righteous to realize that their own beliefs were derived by false accounts.

    There is no Apocalypse, there is no Armageddon, God doesn't want anything to do with us anymore. Don't blame Him. I would have already done the same. If you came home every day to fighting, bickering, name-calling (infidels, gentiles), after a hard days work (creating the universe), then you would find the nearest tropical galaxy and stay away!

    Thanks for everything God, enjoy your vacation, have some Coronas, maybe some surfing. We have let you down. We obviously don't need Your help. After all, everytime you do help us, we create another religion to kill each other.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 14, 2014 12:41 AM
    TRUTH BE TOLD.... Everyday the occupied Palestinians fight on, is a victory and a battle won, and every innocent Palestinian the Israeli's kill, is a defeat for Israel... and the longer this war lasts, (the more world opinion will turn on Israel), and the longer the war lasts, the greater the anger building against Israel, in the Arab world will be.....

    PS; .. The longer the Palestinians hold out, and the more innocent Palestinians are killed, may bring to the Palestinians, what they have long been praying to Allah for..... (Just maybe), the destruction of Gaza, and the massacre of the occupied Palestinians, will win this war against Israel....... REALLY
    In Response

    by: sven
    July 14, 2014 7:50 PM
    Hamas is firing rockets at will towards civilian areas then cowardly hiding behind women and children.
    Hamas are a bunch of neanderthals and Gazans voted for them knowing full well what they were about.
    They asked for war and now they're getting it.
    In Response

    by: TRUTH SPEAKER from: USA
    July 14, 2014 1:44 PM
    You think Israelis want to go out of there way to kill innocent civilians!? It is hamas that has taken over the region and use civilian sites such as schools, hospitals, and even mosques to organize and stock pile weapons.

    They are using there own people as human shields!!! What kind of organization would do that to there own people? Israel has gone out of there way to warn civilians well in advance that they will be attacking the areas they will hit. Hamas has stated that it is just psychological warfare and when civilians die Israel is to blame?

    No it is clearly Hamas. They do not give a about their own people. It will be best for not only Israel but for the Palestinians to end Hamas. And while the rockets are coming from Gaza what is Israel to do. You think they should just lay down and die? Every people has a right to live and defend themselves. Clearly you do not believe this. I just want to get your argument strait for the other people reading this that may not know all the facts.

    by: Dave from: Canada
    July 14, 2014 12:28 AM
    No politics, you can surley leave God out of that. You claim God is defending Israel as if they were a chosen people. The same people who see gentils as equal to a dog and only on this earth to serve the so called "chosen" people. Again, if your are bringing God into tjis topic, try to look through his eyes, He is the one and only, and as the Father, he does not play favourites amongst his children. So in other words, he is killing innocent Palestinians in favour of his "chosen" people? I still don't understand the arguments. What is written by man, enlightened men, does not come close to what your own true heart feels and sees.
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 14, 2014 8:11 PM
    That's right. In fact, why would God want anything to do with us anymore? We, as mankind, have proven to God that no matter what He does for us, not matter who He sends to us, that we will continue to murder in His name. We will continue to commit the most horrible of evils in His name. I don't think God will come back. If we all don't figure this out, ALL OF US, then inevitable non-existence of mankind will be the final result.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    July 13, 2014 9:29 PM
    I cannot see any big difference between Hamas and Isael. Both are ready to slaughter innocent civilians in order to achieve their goals. The only difference is that Israel has much more advanced weapons and Israel is much more capable and has killed much more civilians than Hamas has. Both of them can be labeled terrorists.
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 14, 2014 8:19 PM
    Ignore Nelly, Igor. He ruined any chance that he may possess intelligence. If this idiot knew anything about Russian history, Russian scientists, Russian inventors, Russian arts, and Russian technology, then he wouldn't have dared to make this comment! I am a proud American............and Putin sucks! At least he's better than Obama, the lamest pres in US history.
    In Response

    by: Nelly from: USA
    July 14, 2014 10:26 AM
    You cannot see the difference between Hamas and Israel, because you are Russian. I do know how "smart" Russians are.
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 13, 2014 10:45 PM
    Amen. Obama has supplied weapons to the same people that call themselves ISIL. The ISIL is killing innocent people, women and children. My great nation has to answer for that!!!! There is no fine line between arming people and innocent lives being murdered by those same weapons. Terrorism is terrorism!

    There are plenty of open spaces in the world for blood hungry savages to settle their differences! Just like in the good old days when real men went to battle in open fields, away from the population. That's what is needed!!!! And the leaders of the nations/groups involved are the first to charge the enemy!

    Hamas are cowards because they blend in with the innocent and placing these innocent lives in peril. Israel is a coward country because they know shooting at Hamas will kill innocent people. The world is spiraling out of control, and our leaders are the problem! The Dark Ages looks like Disneyland compared to what is going on today!

    by: David from: Canada
    July 13, 2014 9:09 PM
    Dave you are so brainwashed from your politics. God is very real and is defending Israel look up blood moons Gods has always dealt with Israel but of course history was all written and by man and therefore nothing is true expect in what you believe in right?
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 14, 2014 8:29 PM
    Seems like the majority of people are brainwashed from politics and religion. Even in your statement, you defend a nation that is murdering children. Children, my friend, children. This is not a compassionate view for Hamas, who has proven they will fill buildings with women and children, when they know which buildings will be bombed, because Israel informs them in advance!

    If you wish to discuss history, then you need to be better prepared than this. Not only was history written by man, but so were every single religious text, scroll, bible, koran, etc. Not a single document was written by anyone other than man himself. If you wish to deffend Israel, OK, your choice. I do not defend anyone who doesn't ensure the safety and security of women and children. Since there are no documents written by God himself, all we have is the view of man. Oh yeah, GOd did write something for all of us. Do you remember, do you, the defender of Israel, do you? Yeah, it was called the 10 Commandments. God himelf wrote it! Hamas didn't say that, the Israelites did. Did Hamas destroy the tablets that were written by God? No? Oh it was Moses who smashed them? But why? Why would someone smash the only living proof of God and God's own handwriting? Why? What? Oh you mean Moses was angry? OK, that makes perfect sense.

    If you haven't noticed by now that the insanity in this world is being caused by twisted and distorted beliefs of religion/politics, then you my friend are.......brainwashed. Take care.
    Comments page of 2

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