Hundreds of Israelis left their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, reflecting growing frustration over the war with Hamas and the Palestinian mortar fire raining down on their communities. Tens of thousands of Israelis have fled the area in nearly two months of fighting, which has turned the communities into virtual ghost towns.
With the school year fast approaching, the government began offering assistance to residents Monday in the first large-scale voluntary evacuation in nearly eight weeks of fighting.
Officials estimate that 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left over the course of the fighting, including hundreds on Monday. Some went to stay with relatives and friends, while others are staying at hostels or were taken in by strangers who want to help fellow Israelis.
Fields that once yielded vegetables and flowers are barren and pockmarked by Palestinian mortar shells. Streets are empty and most homes eerily silent.
The government this week offered to help anxious Israelis close to the war zone leave their homes, the first time it has sponsored a large-scale evacuation.
“It is their right to leave, and we will assist them with temporary solutions,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in a TV interview Sunday.