The Israeli military Saturday ordered Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate the area "for their own safety" ahead of what officials said was a planned heavy offensive over the next 24 hours to combat rocket fire. In a statement Saturday, the military said it would send messages to residents overnight to leave the area.
Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, the chief military spokesman, said Israel planned to hit the area with heavy force in the next 24 hours as it steps up an offensive against Gaza militants. An airstrike struck a house belonging to Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh Saturday, killing 15 people, NBC News has learned, bringing the death toll to an estimated 150 since the offensive began five days ago. It is unclear whether the latest strike is part of the operation in northern Gaza.
Also Saturday, Israel's military said it opened fire with artillery into Lebanon in response to rocket fire. Israel fears militant groups in Lebanon may try to open a second front there.
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- How Tel Aviv Copes With Threat of Militant Rockets