Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Israel’s air force dropped leaflets across Gaza City on Tuesday urging people to evacuate their homes “immediately” amid fears the military was poised to launch a ground operation.
“For your own safety, you are required to immediately evacuate your homes and move toward Gaza City centre,” the Arabic-language leaflet said, specifying certain roads that should be used.
The message pointed residents to specific roads they must use to move out of neighbourhoods in question which form a crescent around the southern half of the city centre.
Among the neighbourhoods named in the leaflet were Sheikh Ajlin, Tel Al-Hawa, Rimal, Zeitun, Shejaiya-Turkman and Shejaiya-Jadida.
The message gave no reason for the order, but pledged that everyone who complied would be safe.
“This is a temporary confrontation. In the end, everyone will go home,” the leaflet said on the seventh-day of Israel’s fiercest assault on the coastal enclave in four years.
“In keeping with Israel Defence Force (army) regulations, all civilians will be kept from harm’s way.”
The leaflet was scattered from the air as Hamas militants fired a rocket towards Jerusalem which landed 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of the city, sparking panic in the city as residents ran for cover.
It comes as Israel weighs whether to expand its aerial campaign into a ground incursion or agree to an Egyptian ceasefire which is being put together through indirect talks with Israel and Hamas officials in Cairo.
Earlier on Tuesday, a senior Israeli official said the leadership had decided to postpone a decision on a ground operation “to give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”