"Citizens of Rafah
Due to Hamas using your houses to smuggle and store ammunition, the Israeli Defence Force will attack your homes from Sea Street to the Egyptian border. To the people who live in these areas: Block O, Al Brazil camp, Al Shora area and Qishta area, all homes beyond Sea Street must be evacuated. You have from the time you receive this leaflet until 7.00am the following morning. For you and your children's safety follow what this leaflet says.
The leadership of the Israeli Defence Force"
Shortly before midnight last night missiles began raining down on Rafah in one of the heaviest Israeli air strikes since the current atrocities began. Continuous sorties pounded the southern Gaza city for over 12 hours. Many homes were destroyed or severely damaged, especially in the neighbourhoods along the border with Egypt .
Residents reported mass leaflet drops in these neighbourhoods by Israeli 'planes this afternoon. The papers ordered them to leave their homes in the areas stretching from the borderline all the way back to Sea Street , the main street running through the heart of Rafah, parallel to the border. This area is hundreds of metres deep and the site of thousands of homes. Most of these areas are refugee camps, where residents are being made refugees yet again, some for the third or fourth time following the mass home demolitions of 2003 and 2004 by Israeli military D-9 bulldozers.
A three hour respite was announced in the local media and residents saw this as the last possible opportunity to salvage some of their belongings despite F-16 fighter jets remaining in the skies over Rafah during this time. There were scenes of people picking through the rubble, children carrying bundles, donkey carts piled with bedding and trucks loaded with furniture.
Where will these families go? They are afraid to seek sanctuary in local UNRWA schools following yesterday's massacres in Jabaliya. They are being temporarily absorbed by the rest of Rafah's population – friends, neighbours, relatives. We have a friend in Yibna, directly on the border, who refuses to leave his home. We spoke to one woman in Al Barazil who has a family of 12 and simply doesn't know where to go and another woman in Block J who is literally in the street tonight. Her father is in his nineties.
The family home where ISM volunteers are staying is on the other side of the city centre and has become a refuge for three other families tonight. The house is filled with excited chatter and lots of children. Palestinians have a long-learned talent of making-do, but there is no escaping the deep sense of uncertainty.