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About 250 foreigners leave Gaza

By Xinhua,

Jerusalem : Some 250 foreign nationals living in the Gaza Strip left the missiles-battered Palestinian enclave on Friday morning, local news service Ynet reported.

The group, mostly women married to Palestinian citizens, would be transported to Jordan via Israel before they head for their countries of origin, said the report, adding that some representatives of international organizations were also included.

At least 400 foreign women married to Palestinians are reportedly living in Gaza, among whom some prefer to remain in the coastal strip where over 400 local residents have been killed and over 2,000 others injured in the massive Israeli airstrikes since Dec. 27.

Gazan sources were quoted as saying that the exodus, coordinated by the Red Cross and diplomatic missions in Israel, indicated an Israeli ground incursion, or an escalation of the current operation, was impending.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly stressed the offensive would not cease until security is restored to southern Israel, where four Israelis have been killed in the past week by rockets fired by Gazan militants, and that a ground operation would be carried out if necessary.

The Israeli army has reportedly recommended a major but brief ground offensive.

As calls are mounting worldwide for an immediate end to the bloodshed, no final word has been given on whether or when the Jewish state would launch a ground maneuver.

However, the preparations for such a scenario have been completed, with massive infantry troops and armored units deployed along the border.