The Israeli military dropped leaflets on civilians in Northern Gaza in the early hours Sunday, warning them to evacuate their homes before noon on Sunday, said an IDF spokesperson.
The leaflets read that anyone who does not concede to the instructions will be putting their lives as well as those of their families’ at great risk. The Israeli military claims this area is the source of most of the long-range rockets that have recently been fired at Southern Israel.
The mission is the first ground assault Israel has launched since “Operation Protective Edge” began.
The Palestinian Ministry of Interior claimed the warnings, voice messages, and telephone calls sent by Israel are “psychological warfare” on the Palestinian people.
“If we find it necessary to take any steps for the protection of our people, we will send urgent instructions through local media to maintain your safety,” the ministry’s statement said.
The IDF spokesperson said the Israeli military raided a site in Northern Gaza. “During the mission, there was an exchange of fire,” he said. “Four soldiers were lightly injured and all returned home safely.”
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yallon said through his official Facebook page that he met with Israeli commanders and soldiers. He told them they “may enter the Gaza Strip in the coming days”, adding that he was sure they were well-prepared.
“I also told the commanders and fighters, we are attacking and destroying weapons warehouses, houses of terrorists, weapons, launchers, rockets, government institutions and more,” Yallon said.
Since the Israeli operation began, 900 buildings have been damaged with the army hitting more than 1,000 targets in Gaza.
The last time Israel launched a ground invasion was in 2008, in their “Operation Cast Lead”, with 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed as a result.
The death toll of Palestinians killed since the operation began has surpassed 165 people, including over 20 children, while over 1,000 Palestinians were injured.
The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released as situation report on Saturday saying that 70% of Palestinian fatalities are civilian, 30% of whom are children. Israeli targets have included mosques, homes, and a hospital for people with disabilities.
So far no Israelis have been killed, although Hamas militants have fired more than 600 rockets into Southern Israel.
The Gaza based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights confirmed in a released statement that over 400 homes have been completely destroyed by Israeli airstrikes.
The Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, were able to fire rockets at Tel Aviv on Saturday.
Hany Al-Basoos, Professor of Political Science at the Islamic University in Gaza, says the move is more about putting psychological pressure on the civilians of Gaza, rather than official announcements.
The Israeli military will often give civilians a ten-minute heads-up before airstrikes hit their homes. In a case reported by Palestine’s Ma’an News Agency, Yousef and Anas Qandil, received warning that their home was to be hit by an airstrike. They were, instead, killed by another airstrike when they left their home to seek refuge elsewhere.
A group of Gaza civil society movements released a statement Saturday calling for immediate action from the international community. They include “severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes, immediate international protection of the civilians of Gaza”.