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Gazans flee for cover as Israel, Hamas resume fighting
August 20, 2014, 8:40 am
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Palestinians fleeing their houses in a motorcycle rickshaw pass a house, which witnesses said was destroyed during the ongoing Israeli offensive, in the east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Israel said Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza on Tuesday in violation of a truce, attacks that swiftly drew air strikes and the recall of Israeli negotiators from talks in Cairo on a long-term ceasefire.

Several thousand Palestinians fled their homes in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, weighed down with bags of clothes, pillows and mattresses after Israel and Palestinian militants resumed fire, witnesses said.

An AFP reporter saw hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of Shejaiya, an area devastated by more than a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement which rules Gaza.

Witnesses estimated that several thousand were leaving fleeing, as people streamed to the homes of relatives and UN schools, away from northern Gaza and also the Zeitun and Shaaf areas.

Families walked from their homes, or left by car and on donkey carts weighed down with flimsy mattresses and supplies. Eight Palestinians were wounded in Israeli air strikes, including four boys — two of them aged six and nine — after warplanes struck targets across the coastal strip, the emergency services said.

“We’ve heard explosions. My kids were scared so I’m taking them back to the UNRWA school where we spent the war,” said Um Mohammed Bakrun, walking in the street with her sister and four children. Said Hilis, carrying bags, told AFP that he had heard shelling next to his home.

“We’re nervous. We heard on the radio that the resistance have fired rockets from Gaza and (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu had ordered the army to respond,” he said. “I think the cease-fire is over. I’m taking my family to my relatives’ house in western Gaza City. It’s safer there.”

There were similar fears in northern Gaza, where mother of three Raghda Al-Mugqa, 30, told AFP she was seeking safety elsewhere. “We heard on the news that the truce is over so I’m running to my family home in the middle of Gaza City. My kids were scared when they knew the war is coming back,” she said.

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, tweeted earlier Tuesday that 238,004 people were sheltering in 81 shelters — an average of 2,938 Palestinians crammed into each.

Israel ordered its negotiators back from cease-fire talks in Cairo and the military said warplanes hit Gaza. They hit at least 10 targets, according to army radio. The fighting shattered nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza and cast a dark shadow over Egyptian-mediated efforts to hammer out a longer-term truce.

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