JERUSALEM (AP) — More Israelis today are leaving their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip.
In all, tens of thousands of Israelis have fled those homes amid growing fear and frustration over the war with Hamas and the Palestinian mortar fire that is raining down on their communities.
Officials estimate that 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of farming communities along the Gaza border have left, including hundreds today. With the school year approaching, the Israeli government today started offering assistance to those residents in the first large-scale voluntary evacuation in nearly eight weeks of fighting.
According to Gaza officials, the fighting has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians. The death toll on the Israeli side has been much lower, largely because of Israel's network of air raid sirens, bomb shelters and the Iron Dome missile defense system.
But Israel's defenses haven't been effective against short-range mortar fire. A four-year-old boy was killed Friday by a Palestinian mortar shell.
One man who has moved his family out of their home near Gaza says he will return as soon as it is safe. He says, "We don't want to be scared when our kids go to school."
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