Israel urges 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza

Jerusalem, Jul 16 (EFE).- The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, on Wednesday urged more than 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate their homes ahead of new air strikes on Gaza, where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and 1,500 others wounded in nine days of Israeli air raids and naval artillery barrages.

Residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya and of two neighborhoods in Gaza City were asked to leave "for their own security" in telephone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped on the strip by Israeli aircraft.

Some 80,000 Palestinians did not heed the Israeli warnings and stayed home even though the IDF gave residents until 8:00 a.m. to leave, officials said.

About 18,000 residents fled their houses in Beit Lahiya, of whom 4,000 sought refuge in schools that belong to the United Nations.

Seventy-five targets in Gaza were attacked in overnight raids, Israeli military spokesmen told EFE.

At least 205 Palestinians, including 40 children, have been killed and 1,500 others wounded in the massive air raids and naval barrages launched by Israel on July 8 as part of "Operation Protective Edge.

The operation's aim is to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, but most of the victims have been civilians.

The first Israeli fatality from Palestinian rockets occurred on Tuesday, when a 37-year-old man died from the shrapnel wounds he sustained when a rocket exploded near the Erez Crossing on the border with Gaza, military spokesmen said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Tuesday the Palestinian movement Hamas, which governs Gaza, had left him no choice but to intensify military operations.

The Israeli leader spoke after Hamas rejected as "humiliating" a five-point Egyptian cease-fire plan to end hostilities and begin negotiations in Cairo.

Despite agreeing to the cease-fire, Israel renewed its attacks Tuesday on the strip after a six-hour lull, as Palestinian rockets continued raining over Israel.

Israel has hit around 1,750 targets in the past nine days, while the Palestinians have fired 1,260 rockets, of which 225 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.