As Israel continued air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday, January 2, hundreds of foreigners left the impoverished strip to escape the week-long Israeli blitz.
"The situation is very bad. We are afraid for our children," Ilona Hamdiya, a woman from Moldova married to a Palestinian, told Reuters.
"We are very grateful to our embassy," she said in lightly accented Arabic.
Between 350 and 450 foreigners boarded buses in the pre-dawn murk into Israel.
They left behind 1.6 million Palestinians unable to escape the week-long Israeli attacks, which killed 428 people and wounded more than 2,200.
"I want to come back when the situation allows it," Alla Semaks, a 34-year-old Ukrainian woman married to a Palestinian, told The New York Times.
"I have nothing in Ukraine," said, Semaks, a mother of four. "My children are very afraid for their father. We fear there will be an Israeli ground offensive."
Three children of the same family were killed Friday in an Israeli air strike in the southern town of Khan Younis.
Medics said the three children, aged seven to 10, were killed when an Israeli missile hit nearby while they were playing on the street.
Gaza streets were almost deserted Friday, littered with a week’s bombing debris.
At Jabalya refugee camp to the north, boys inspected the twisted concrete left by an Israeli attack on a mosque.
"I will pray at home. You never know, they may bomb the mosque and destroy it on our heads," said one man buying humus from a street stand.
But another Palestinian was defiant.
"What better than to die while kneeling before God?" he said.
Nine mosques have been destroyed by Israeli war jets since Saturday.
Gaza markets, normally bustling on a Friday, were also deserted.
"It is an adventure to get out of your house to fetch a kilo of tomatoes or something," said Abu Yasser, a father of four.
"But I must take my chances because my children are not to blame for this and they do not understand why all this is happening."
Hundreds of families say they have had telephone calls warning their houses would be bombed, and they have left to stay with relatives or friends.
Some of their neighbors have packed up and gone as well, wary of becoming "collateral damage".
Duct tape has been in heavy demand by Palestinians who tape up their windows hoping to protect against flying glass from the heavy explosions.
"Only God can get us out of this mess," said an old Palestinian man waiting to buy his ration of unleavened loaves.
(IslamOnline.net and News Agencies)