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A scary night for all, as Gaza and Israel strikes escalate

·2-min read

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Amichay

GAZA/TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The exodus began after the Israeli missiles struck the Gaza apartment building.

Carrying luggage, personal documents and valuables, residents walked away from the damaged structure, where an air strike wrecked two apartments that they said was used by the Interior Ministry, run by Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group.

Some children clutched dolls.

"Israel is bombing civilians in their homes because they are unable to face the men from the resistance. We are easier targets for them," said one woman, who gave her name only as Umm Hassan.

Residents on both sides have sought cover as rocket attacks and air strikes have escalated since Monday into the heaviest fighting https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/35-killed-gaza-3-israel-violence-escalates-2021-05-12 between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza.

Israel rejects allegations that it targets civilians.

Without referring to any specific incident, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters: "We are definitely very mindful of civilian casualties in Gaza and we want to minimise them. That's the priority."

In Tel Aviv, where sirens blared repeatedly early on Wednesday, heralding rocket barrages launched from Gaza, Margo Aronovic, a 26-year-old student, spoke of "a really scary night".

Nir Livnat, 26, a construction services worker, said his adrenaline kicked in when the sirens sounded.

"You know you need to find a shelter," he said. "After you find a shelter, you see everybody. It's very (warming) to see everybody helping each other. We take care of each other."

In a separate Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed a multi-storey apartment building and which local residents said also housed a Hamas office, Israel had warned its occupants to leave. And out they came.

There was no such tip-off before the strike against the building that housed the Interior Ministry's "Foreign Affairs Department", which issued entry permits to Gaza, one resident, Nawal Khader, told Reuters.

One of the missiles struck the road outside the building, sending smoke and dust into apartments.

"They didn't warn us. We would have left before the airstrikes if they did," Khader said.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Edmund Blair)