Israel-Gaza conflict: Benjamin Netanyahu warns Palestinians to flee Hamas ‘targets’

Israeli minister warns that Jewish state is 'closer than ever' to reintroducing ground troops into Gaza

Jerusalem

In a sign that Israel is likely to further intensify its air strikes in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Palestinians civilians to move away from areas used by Hamas for rocketing and other activities lest they be caught up in the targeting of the Israeli military.

“I call on the inhabitants of Gaza to evacuate immediately from every site from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity,” Mr Netanyahu said, “Every one of these places is a target for us.”

The remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting followed up the dropping of leaflets by the military on Saturday to the same effect.

Israeli air strikes across Gaza killed at least 13 people yesterday, including a one-year-old girl, Palestinian reports said, while three Israelis were injured in a Hamas mortar attack on the Erez border crossing.

 

Meanwhile, the Israeli communications minister, Gilad Erdan, warned that the Jewish state is “closer than ever” to reintroducing its ground troops into Gaza. Officials said this would take the form of incursions into one or more areas to harm Hamas, without reoccupying all of the Strip.

Video: Footage shows aftermath of Israeli air strike

Mr Erdan’s threat reflects frustration that in six weeks of fighting, Israel has not yet defeated Hamas or achieved the stated goal of the operation, halting cross border rocket fire.

While Israeli leaders had hoped that the assassinations last Thursday of three senior Hamas commanders would mark a turning point in the war, they were on Friday dealt a blow when Hamas mortar fire killed a four-year-old boy, Daniel Turjerman, in his home on Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border.

Today, the boy was laid to rest in a funeral attended by hundreds, including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Gila Turjerman, Daniel’s mother, her voice choking, eulogised her child, saying: “I don’t believe I am here in the cemetery parting from you. We were the most fortunate family in the world. We want to tell you thank you, because you taught us how to love and gave us happiness.” Daniel was the first Israeli child killed in the conflict. According to Gaza health officials, more than 400 Palestinian children have died since the war began on 8 July.

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That toll rose further on Sunday as a family of five, three of them children, died in an Israeli air strike during the afternoon in northern Gaza, according to the Maan news agency. The army said it was checking the report.

Describing another air strike, Al-Mezan human rights organisation said that at 11.50am on Sunday morning, an Israeli plane fired a missile at an open field in the Yarmouk neighbourhood of central Gaza City. The missile killed two children in a neighbouring house, one-year-old Zeinab Abu Taqiyya and 16-year-old Mohammed al-Khodari, al-Mezan said.

There seems to be no end in sight to the bloodshed. Egypt called on Israelis and Palestinians on Saturday to halt hostilities and return to ceasefire talks that collapsed last Tuesday.

But the two sides remain far apart over terms for a ceasefire and there is no indication that the negotiations will resume soon.

In a separate development, Reuters quoted Iran’s state news agency ISNA as saying that Iranian Revolutionary Guards have shot down a radar-evading Israeli spy drone that was trying to penetrate Iran’s Natanz enrichment site. The Israeli army said it does not comment on foreign reports.

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