As a funeral for a young man was held in Gaza City today, two large swarms of white leaflets fell from Israeli warplanes, flitting to the ground. As the sun set, Gazans came streaming out of several north-eastern neighborhoods, fleeing the deadly onslaught they worried the leaflet forewarned.
"The Israeli forces are not aiming at any of you and don't want to hurt any of your family members. Because of this, you should evacuate from your home immediately and move to Gaza center," the leaflets read. "This will be temporary and in the end, everyone will return home. Listening to our instructions will protect all the civilian people."
The leaflet showed a map and listed five roads to use to get to the center of Gaza.
Palestinians poured out of the neighborhoods with whatever they could grab, some with just the clothes on their backs. Car, trucks, tuk-tuks and donkey carts were piled high with mattresses, blankets and children.
"Based on what they're saying on this leaflet, there's going to be a ground incursion," a man in a packed car said. "The last war we didn't listen to the leaflet and we suffered a lot. We want to evacuate before the incursion starts to protect ourselves."
The leaflet included directions to the nearest school. Outside a Gaza City school run by UNRWA, the United Nations' body in Gaza, a woman holding a young child wept.
"They killed us, destroyed our houses. We're scared they'll kill us," she cried. "We ask you to stand next to us, to help us."
Hundreds milled about the schoolyard, claiming space in the classrooms around the edges. A group of men took turns kicking a locked blue metal door, trying to get into a classroom, an effort that proved futile.
Juda Zaid arrived with his brother and 18 other family members, including an older woman who been a coma in a week and was on medication.
"When there's any explosion, the kids start screaming," said Juda Zaid. Asked if he'll go home soon, he responded, "God willing, this is what we ask from God."
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