'Growing Stream' of Gazans Flee Homes as IDF Prepares to Strike
The UN's special refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, reported Sunday that about 4,000 residents of northern Gaza have fled their homes after the IDF told them to do so, starting last night.
In addition, about 850 Palestinians with foreign nationalities are leaving Gaza through the Erez checkpoint. Three hundred of these had already done so by the early afternoon.
Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on border areas in northern Gaza, calling on the citizens to evacuate their homes before noon Sunday as it prepared to bomb the area.
The IDF warned that those who do not obey their instructions will be risking their lives and the lives of their family.
UNRWA has opened eight schools to accommodate the evacuees from the northern Gaza Strip, said Robert Turner, director of UNRWA operations, during a press conference held Sunday in one of these schools. He said about 4,000 people had already taken shelter in the schools and that the stream of evacuees was increasing.
Turner said that UNRWA will open more schools for evacuees if necessary, but pointed out that UNRWA schools can accommodate no more than 35 thousand people.
About 50,000 residents of northern Gaza similarly evacuated their homes and sought refuge in UNRWA schools during the IDF's Cast Lead operation in 2008-9.
Hamas tried to trick residents of northern Gaza into staying in harm's way. It called on the residents not to leave their homes and called Israel's warnings “psychological warfare intended to sow fear in people's hearts.”
Hamas's Interior Ministry said that it is following Israel's attacks and will notify local resaidents of any danger, should it arise. “Until now, there is no reason to evacuate homes in these regions,” it said. “Obeying Israeli instructions assists the enemy. Therefore, we call on all those who left their homes to return to them immediately, and not to leave them.”
A video from Gaza shows the IAF carrying out the “knock on the roof” procedure, in which it delivers a double warning to residents of a house that it is about to be bombed. The home is identified in the video as belonging to the Nofal family, and may be the home of Ayman Nofal, a Hamas leader who escaped from an Egyptian jail in 2011.
"Knock on the roof” involves three stages: first, a telephone call to the residents warning them of the impending strike, and second, an unarmed missile that is fired at the roof of the house, indicating that a missile strike is imminent. About a minute later, the missiles strike the house.
The video was taken by neighbors who knew that the strike was about to take place.