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Israel bombs Gaza and warns Palestinians to leave on war’s fourth day


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The Israeli military bombarded more than 200 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight and said it had secured its breached border barrier with the enclave, three days after an unprecedented incursion by the militant group Hamas into Israel triggered the country’s worst war in decades.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes, according to the UN, after Hamas fighters breached the Gaza border and poured into Israel, killing hundreds and bringing fierce Israeli bombardment in response from the sea and the air.

The Israel Defense Forces said its targets included what it said was a Hamas operational command centre in a mosque, an entry point for a tunnel used by militants and other “operational infrastructure” inside a second mosque. 

The Financial Times could not independently confirm the claims. Israel accuses the Palestinian group, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, of embedding military infrastructure in civilian areas and holy sites. 

The IDF said that the area near the border with Gaza was now “more or less secure” following two firefights in Israeli communities.

A military official also said that Palestinian civilians should “get out” of Gaza if they could via the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, a day after Israel said it was cutting off electricity and water to the territory. More than 2mn people live in Gaza, whose borders Israel and Egypt tightly control.

“First of all, I’m aware that the Rafah crossing is still open,” Richard Hecht, an IDF spokesperson, told journalists in a news briefing on Tuesday. “Anyone that can get out I would advise him if he can to get out.” The Israeli military later issued a clarification that while the Rafah crossing had been open on Monday, it was now closed.

Israel said it had fully deployed 35 military battalions and four divisions and was “building an infrastructure for future operations”, ahead of a widely expected ground operation in Gaza. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech on Monday evening that Hamas had made a “mistake of historic proportions” in carrying out Saturday’s attack on Israel, when its fighters broke through Israel’s border barriers and entered Israeli towns and kibbutzes, killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers and abducting dozens.

“We will exact a price that will be remembered by them and Israel’s other enemies for decades to come,” he said.

More than 900 Israelis have now been killed, with dozens more held hostage in Gaza. Palestinian officials said on Monday evening that at least 687 people had been killed in Gaza. 

According to UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, the Israeli bombardment has displaced more than 187,000 people in Gaza. 

The war has also raised concerns of a broader regional escalation, including in the north, where Israel faces Lebanon-based militant group Hizbollah. The US has deployed a naval battle group in the Mediterranean nearby.

Hizbollah said on Monday that it had fired rockets and mortars on two Israeli military posts and that three of its fighters had been killed after crossing the border. Israel said one of its soldiers was killed during an earlier cross-border raid.

The Hamas incursion has prompted shock and soul-searching in Israel over the security lapses. The IDF said on Tuesday morning that it was “still counting the bodies” from an attack on revellers at a party near the border, where about 250 had been killed.



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