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Gazans flee homes as Israel steps up campaign

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Israel toughened its campaign against Gaza Sunday, warning Palestinians in the north to flee after marines mounted a ground attack, and diplomatic efforts to halt the bloodshed intensified.

As world powers prepared to meet over the spiralling bloodshed, the Palestinian death toll from a punishing Israeli air campaign hit 166, following the bloodiest day yet in which 56 people were killed.

Despite increasing calls for a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was no end in sight, with the military warning residents of northern Gaza to flee by 0900 GMT.

"We are hitting Hamas with growing force," Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting.

"We do not know when this operation will end."

So far, no Israelis have been killed, although militants in Gaza have pounded the south and centre of the country with more than 630 rockets since the fighting began on July 8 in the biggest confrontation in and around the enclave since 2012.

Overnight, Israeli naval commandos raided the northern Gaza Strip on a mission to destroy longer-range rockets which have sent thousands fleeing for cover in cities as far away as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Hadera in the north.

Radio reports spoke of a fierce gun battle with Hamas militants in the Sudaniya district.

Shortly afterwards, the army said it had warned residents of the north to "immediately" leave their homes ahead of a major assault which would focus on the town of Beit Lahiya.




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