Israeli military bombards northern Gaza
IDF declares buffer zone to try to stop militants' rockets
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli military pounded northern Gaza with artillery fire Wednesday evening after warning Palestinian civilians to stay out of a zone used by militants to fire rockets at Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces said it was acting "in the absence of any action by the Palestinian Authority to stop terror originating" from Gaza.
Palestinians were told to stay out of the unpopulated zones in Gaza, from where rockets have been fired at Israel.
Israeli artillery fire began at 6 p.m. (11 a.m. ET) near Beit Hanoun and Beit Ahlia.
The leaflet campaign was the first step in an Israeli military plan to create a buffer zone in northern Gaza aimed at keeping Islamic Jihad militants from firing Qassam rockets into Israel, Ha'aretz newspaper reported.
The IDF said in a statement that Palestinian civilians were given "a number of hours in order to get organized. ..."
"At the end of this period of time, the IDF will step up its activity against the terror cells in the projectile rocket launching grounds, utilizing measures both from the air and from the ground," the IDF said.
More than 200 Qassam rockets have been fired at Israel over the last four months, according to the IDF.
Israel Radio reported that Palestinian Islamic Jihad rejected a call by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to halt the rocket attacks.
Abbas held talks Tuesday with Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, urging them to honor a truce reached in February. But an Islamic Jihad spokesman accused Israel of violating the cease-fire, saying the rocket attacks were the proper response, Israel Radio said.
In recent weeks, militants have fired rockets toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon. In one instance, a power plant was hit. In another one, a rocket struck an Israeli army base north of Gaza, lightly wounding three Israeli soldiers.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. The U.S. State Department considers it a terrorist organization.
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