Hamas’s armed wing has warned people living in the Israeli city of Ashkelon that they have until 5pm local time to leave.
The al Qassam Brigades, as the group is known, posted on social media that its warning to leave by 3pm UK time was in response to the “crime of the enemy”.
The statement on Telegram said: “In response to the crime of the enemy displacing our people and forcing them to flee their homes in several areas of the Gaza Strip, we give the residents of the occupied city of Ashkelon time to leave before five o’clock in the evening.”
As part of continued rocket attacks across Israel, the militants claimed to have hit Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, which the Israelis have denied.
Israel, in turn, has said its air force has killed two senior Hamas officials – its minister of economy, Jawad Abu Shamala, and Zakaria Abu Maamar, a member of Hamas’s political office.
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It comes after Israeli authorities said the bodies of about 1,500 militants have been found on their territory after Saturday’s surprise attack.
Israel says more than 150 of its civilians and soldiers were kidnapped and are being held hostage in Gaza.
Image: Israeli soldiers walk past a damaged car in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel Harrowing tales have emerged of families being taken away, with relatives left with no clue about their fate.
Hamas has warned it will kill a hostage every time Israel launches a retaliatory air strike without a pre-warning to enable civilians to reach safety.
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Some 770 Palestinians have died in the Gaza Strip and 4,000 injured in strikes so far, say Palestinian health authorities.
Hamas sources in Lebanon have told Sky News the “operation” on Saturday was in the planning for more than a year.
The source also went onto say that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expands the front, Hamas will too and their allies “will not leave Hamas in this battle alone”.
Gaza under seige
Israel has also announced a siege of Gaza, cutting off food, power and water as it hits back at Hamas targets in the thin coastal strip, which is home to 2.3 million people.
More than 180,000 Gazans have been made homeless, with many huddling on streets or in schools, the United Nations said, while bombardment shut roads to emergency crews.
Ahead of an expected ground assault, Israeli tanks have been gathering at the border to guard against further incursions – with Israel’s prime minister promising devastating revenge.
The Israel Defence Force (IDF) has now increased the number of reservists it has mobilised to 360,000, with at least 35 battalions being organised into four divisions.
Israel will respond in Gaza “very aggressively. This is a game changer”, the IDF added.
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Aerial footage shows the scale of destruction in Gaza City. Their response comes as reports suggest the first tranche of US security assistance is on its way to Israel, with more to come.
MSNBC quotes White House spokesperson John Kirby as saying a package was en-route to Israel, but no further details about what was included have been shared.
Israel’s air force, meanwhile, said it is launching an “extensive attack against terror targets” in the Gaza Strip.
British-Israeli civilians among affected
The Israeli military said more than 900 people have been killed in the Hamas attack – which officials have likened to its own 9/11 or Pearl Harbour.
Image: Israeli soldiers take position at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel, near Gaza That number includes about 250 festival-goers slaughtered by gunmen who prowled the site shooting them dead for hours. Some of the hostages were paraded through the streets in Gaza.
One couple have told Sky News how they managed to escape the massacre by driving across a field.
In one of the worst cases, three generations of the same family are missing.
The abduction of the Bibas Silverman family in kibbutz Nir Oz was filmed by Palestinians and posted online.
In his flat in Tel Aviv, restaurateur and cousin Yosi told Sky News of his agony watching the footage of his relatives’ kidnapping.
“The first time I saw the pictures I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t comprehend what I saw, then I look at another picture and it was very clear that this is my cousin Shiri and the two little children.”
Among the civilians caught in the conflict are a “significant number” or British-Israeli dual nationals, according to James Cleverly, the foreign secretary.
He would not give an exact number due to the “fast-moving” situation, he told LBC, but many “have been in some way involved in the terrorist atrocities”.