Kiwis warned to leave Gaza area as air strikes intensify

Last updated 05:00 19/11/2012

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The Government is urging New Zealanders in Gaza to leave the war-torn strip of land in the Middle East.

One New Zealander is registered as being in Gaza and is in contact with the New Zealand embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Seventy three are registered as being in Israel.

Wellington man Hector Sharp is studying in Israel's capital Jerusalem and has been blogging from his fortified apartment during air strikes as fighting escalates.

At the weekend he posted that residents of the city had been told to stay in their apartments, which contain bomb shelter rooms.

"It's 8pm here now, three hours since the sirens stopped and the city fell silent. We are getting reports that Gaza is being hit hard by Israeli air strikes.

"Every soldier that I know has been called into base . . . the city is crawling with armed troops," he wrote.

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry yesterday issued an extreme risk warning advising New Zealanders in Gaza to leave as soon as was safely possible.

The "extreme risk" alert warned against travel at Sheba'a Farms and Ghajjar along the Lebanese border or within 40km of Israel's border with Gaza, due to "indiscriminate rocket fire from armed groups within Gaza". Non-essential travel in the West Bank was advised against while caution was advised for those travelling in Israel.

A ministry spokesperson said New Zealanders who do travel to and remain in Gaza against ministry advice "should be aware there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Gaza, so the ability of the Government to assist New Zealand citizens is severely limited".

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- The Dominion Post

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