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Thousands flee Israeli shelling on east Gaza
July 20, 2014, 12:29 pm

Thousands of people have fled Gaza's eastern district of Shajaiya as heavy bombardment from Israeli tanks continued relentlessly into the morning.

The Palestinian enclave was hit overnight with the heaviest barrage of tank shells since the beginning of Israel's offensive against Hamas on July 8. The eastern neighbourhoods of Shajaiya, al-Shaaf and al-Tuffa were worst hit.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker in Gaza reported that the shelling on Sunday morning was still ongoing near the eastern neighbourhoods as people from there made their way into Gaza City on foot.

"There is a steady stream of people, hundreds, walking into Gaza City. While driving into the bureau, we were met with hundreds of people on foot carrying their children, carrying plastic bags filled with whatever belongings they could take with them, because they couldn't leave during the night," our correspondent said.

Shajaiya neighbourhood was targeted heavily by shelling overnight, cutting electricity and water supply.

Thirty-one bodies were brought to hospitals on Sunday morning, medics told Al Jazeera, and the number was expected to rise as ambulances were able to reach neighbourhoods east of Gaza City.

Those killed overnight in Shejeiya included the son of senior Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya, Osama, his wife Hala and their two children.

At least 370 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" on Hamas in Gaza. Dozens of children are among the dead.

Israel announced on Saturday that four of its soldiers were killed in combat with Palestinian fighters, bringing the total death toll on the Israeli side to seven.

'Heavy psychological impact'

Waleed, a resident of Gaza's eastern al-Shaff neighbourhood, told Al Jazeera that he was terrified and stuck with his family of 18 members in a single room and had nowhere to go while Israeli shelling continued through the night.

"We can hear shells and rockets fall on our streets and homes. They're falling everywhere. We have no electricity, everything has been cut off. The Red Cross can't reach the area [because] it's too dangerous. People are stuck at home. Some people managed to flee to UN schools and safer areas, but the streets are empty! All we hear is shelling."

Gaza residents testify about the effects Israel and Egypt's blockade of their land has had on their lives.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working at Gaza's al-Shifa hospital, told Al Jazeera that most of the casualties were civilians who suffered shrapnel injuries and amputations.

"It's very disturbing to see the large number of civilians, particularly the children. What is remarkable with the Palestinians in Gaza is the resilience. They don't give up, they stand tall. I'm amazed to see the calm and coherence in the community and in the hospital among the [hospital] staff.

He said that three medical doctors had their homes shattered by Israeli attacks late on Saturday.

"What [Palestinians] are [saying] is that how can the world accept the Israelis targeting civilians in an area which is completely shut off? There are no shelters, no early warning systems, no sirens. The population is basically completely naked to the enormously strong Israeli military machine."

Al Jazeera correspondent Stefanie Dekker said that the shelling took place every five seconds in the densely populated Palestinian enclave and played a heavy psychological impact on the people there.

"It's something that's also psychological, when you hear the sounds of the explosions overnight. We were in the west towards the coast - also hit by heavy shelling and F16's flying overhead. This is a real war which gets into your head," she reported live on air while sounds of explosions were heard in the background.

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