GAZA CITY — Israel has called on tens of thousands of residents in Gaza in areas close to the border with Israel to leave their homes as it continues to launch airstrikes that it says are aimed at rooting out Hamas militants.
In nine days of fighting, 204 Palestinians have been killed and 1,450 have been wounded, Gaza's health ministry said. There has been one Israeli death. The United Nations has said that the majority of those killed in Gaza as a result of Israel's Operation Protective Edge that started July 8 have been civilians.
The renewed bombings come after Israel initially accepted an Egyptian truce proposal Tuesday that called for a halt of hostilities. Hamas rejected the deal, saying it did not believe Egypt's current rulers — who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo last year — can be fair brokers.
Still, some analysts say the Egyptian-proposed plan may still succeed as Hamas moves toward defining its demands.
"The cease-fire plan may evolve over the next few days," said David Butter, an analyst specializing on Middle East affairs at the Chatham House think tank in London.
"I believe Hamas has started to put in some particular demands. Basically, these are a series of ideas on completely changing their status, removing any kind of siege on Gaza and moving forward with courts and trade and so on," said Butter. He also did not rule out the possibility of the conflict escalating.
Israel told residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighborhoods of Gaza City, all near the border with Israel, to evacuate their homes by 8 a.m. Wednesday. The warnings were delivered in automated phone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped from planes.
The Israeli military said in its message that large numbers of rockets were launched from these areas and that Israel plans to bomb these locations.
"Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families," the message said.
A Hamas website on Wednesday said Israel fired missiles at the homes of four of its senior leaders as it resumed its bombardment of Gaza following the failed cease-fire effort. Hamas militants fired a barrage of rockets back at Israel with some reaching deep into Israeli territory.
During the past two weeks Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets at Israeli border communities, and six of them landed in Kibbutz Nir Oz on Wednesday.
Judy Hagai, a resident of Kibbutz Nir Oz, located about 2 kilometers from the Gaza border, said the current situation is just an escalation of what she and Israelis who live near the border have been experiencing, on and off, for nearly 15 years.
"We had one (rocket) hit two days ago about 100 meters from our house that caused a huge crack in the wall of our house. Yesterday another one hit the our neighbor's garden 100 meters away in the opposite direction," Hagai said.
Hagai believes Israel had no choice but to fire on Hamas targets in Gaza.
"Unfortunately our neighbors are placing their armaments near civilians and then telling them not to heed Israel's warnings to evacuate," she said.
Meanwhile, civilians in Gaza remain caught between the back-and-forth of the region's political and military decision-makers, locals say.
"We are the victims of politicians," said Ibrahim Badwan, 38, an accountant and father of five in Gaza. "We want to live a decent life, to bring up our children in a safe environment," he said.
"People in Gaza have had enough," Badwan said.
Mohammad Nizar, 32, a shop owner in Gaza City, said any cease-fire must also benefit Gazans.
"Let me tell you that I do not like Hamas but I support the resistance in general," Nizar said.
Dumalaon reported from Berlin. Contributing: Michele Chabin from Jerusalem; Associated Press