The Israel Air Force carried out a series of airstrikes in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia shortly before nightfall Sunday. Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV station reported four airstrikes in a 10-minute span, and a large plume of black smoke could be seen over the area from the Israeli border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Meanwhile, the Gaza health ministry reported on Sunday that the Palestinian death toll has reached 167, with over 1,000 people wounded.
On Sunday around noon, the IAF attacked rocket-launching infrastructure targets in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday. The IDF also said it targeted the operations of the commander of Islamic Jihad's rocket unit in the Beit Lahia neighborhood.
Some 36 percent of all recent rocket fire on Israel has come from the northern areas of the Gaza Strip and 30 percent of long-range rockets have been fired from the same radius. Beit Lahia has been the origin of 10 percent of all rocket fire in Operation Protective Edge.
"We have identified more rocket fire from the northern Strip than other sectors and this morning we are calling on the population to evacuate from there ahead of an escalation of (Israeli) attacks," the IDF said Sunday morning.
The Gaza health ministry said one Palestinian was killed in a midday strike in Beit Hanoun, a woman was killed in a strike on the al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, a 14-year-old was killed in attacks in northern Gaza and an 80-year-old was killed in the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City. At least five people succumbed to wounds from strikes in previous days.
According to the Palestinians, three children were wounded in the Beit Hanoun strike.
Hamas denies Israeli claims inflicted heavy damage on the group, saying it is largely unscathed, and Palestinian medics say most of the dead have been civilians.
Many of the airstrikes have been on the homes of wanted Hamas militants, putting their families at risk. In an attack on Saturday, the target of one such airstrike, Gaza's police chief, survived, while 17 members of his extended family were killed.
Israel accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields, putting people in the densely populated territory in danger.
"The leadership of Hamas and the other organizations has chosen - at a time when they are using the population of Gaza as human shields - to hide under ground, to flee abroad and to deliberately put civilians in the line of fire," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
At around 8pm, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a high voltage power line in the Eshkol Regional Council, cutting off electricity supply to 70,000 Palestinians in Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah.
The Israel Electric Company decided not to fix the power line for the time being, after Netanyahu and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom have instructed the company not to put the lives of IEC workers at risk. The power line will be fixed when the security situation allows it, the company said.
Calls to evacuate area
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced that the military has airdropped leaflets on the northern Gaza Strip with similar messages. Locals have also been sent pre-recorded messages and video clips.
"It is the intention of the IDF to attack from the air terror infrastructure and terrorists in the area east of Al-Attara," the leaflets warn. "Residents must evacuate their homes by 12pm, noon, today heading south towards Jabalia."
The Israeli warnings told Gaza residents that "the IDF operation will be temporary and short. Those who do not adhere to these directives will jeopardize their own lives and the lives of their families. Be careful, stay safe."
Following the IDF's warnings, thousands of Palestinians fled the northern Gaza Strip and sought refuge in UNRWA facilities, that can shelter some 35,000 people.
The UN refugee agency for Palestinian said some 17,000 Palestinians had headed to special shelters set up in 20 United Nations schools in Gaza.
"The fact that in a span of almost a few hours, 10,000 people sought refuge in these 15 schools is an indication to the difficult situation on the ground," said Sami Mshasha, a UNRWA spokesman.
Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags. "Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave," said one resident, Mohammed Abu Halemah.
Also on Sunday, Palestinians with foreign passports began leaving Gaza through the Erez border crossing. Israel, which cooperated in the evacuation, said 800 Palestinians living in Gaza have passports from countries including Australia, Britain and the US.
"The objectives for this operation are to deal a significant blow to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, decrease the fire on civilians and strengthen the deterrence. So far, 1,300 targets were attacked. Launchers, command and control centers and more," a senior IDF source said on Saturday.
The IDF will strike areas from which rockets are launched at Israel, in which rockets are manufactured, and in which terrorists train and hide their rockets and other weaponry.
The move was decided on after consultations with legal advisers dealing with international law, who will also accompany the commanders.
"The salvos on Saturday evening towards central Israel show exactly what Hamas and Islamic Jihad want to do. This is something Hezbollah started. Firing at targets in varied distances, including psychological warfare and maximum intimidation of citizens," the senior official said.