IDF steps up anti-tunnel operations

Thousands flee Rafah after IDF warns them before attack; 300 dual citizens let out of Gaza Strip.

gaza aid trucks 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
gaza aid trucks 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
300 Palestinians with dual citizenship were let out of the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing on Thursday morning. On Wednesday night, heavy shelling was reported in Rafah on as the IDF stepped up its operations against weapons smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor. The army had earlier dropped flyers on Rafah urging residents of the town living near the corridor to vacate the area. "Because Hamas uses your houses to hide and smuggle military weapons, the IDF will attack the area, between the Egyptian border until the beach road," the flyer said, according a local UN official. After the flyers were dropped, about 5,000 people fled to two UN schools turned into temporary shelters, the official said. Meanwhile, the IDF continued to strike Hamas targets accross the Strip. On Thursday morning, Palestinians said the IAF had struck more than 20 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, Israel Radio reported. According to the report, 1 person was killed and 10 were wounded. Late on Wednesday night, Palestinians in Rafah reported that a house and a tunnel were targeted in an IAF air-strike, Israel Radio reported. But Sky News quoted Palestinians as saying the IAF had targeted a mosque, killing 15 people. Also on Wednesday night, Palestinian eye witnesses said they saw IDF tanks heading towards the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, British Sky News reported. The Jerusalem Post could not independently confirm the report. Earlier on Wednesday evening, Palestinians reported that by 9 p.m., 30 homes had been destroyed, as tunnel openings are frequently hidden inside houses and. According to Channel 10, the army said that anti-tunnel operations would continue through the night. Earlier on Wednesday night, Palestinians reported that a mosque in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City had been struck. The army has hit mosques on five previous occasions during Operation Cast Lead, after discovering that terrorists were hiding weapons and explosives inside. Meanwhile the IDF released footage of suspected Hamas operatives captured by troops. The men were blindfolded and their hands were bound with plastic cuffs. Several were cuffed together, and led away by soldiers. Others were seen kneeling on the sandy ground. IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu said 120 suspected Hamas fighters had been captured. He also said soldiers conducting searches had uncovered many explosive devices and tunnels. "We uncovered many tunnels for kidnapping soldiers, at least one car bomb, booby trapped dolls, tunnels - an underground city," Benyahu told Channel 10. In fighting earlier Wednesday, nine soldiers were lightly wounded and, according to Gaza medics, 29 Palestinians were killed, including four in an IAF strike on a car.