JERUSALEM, July 13 (Xinhua) -- A rocket salvo fired at central Israel hit Tel Aviv and reached as far as the Haifa district on Sunday, as Israeli forces prepare for the heaviest bombardment on the northern Gaza Strip.
At around 16:30 (GMT 1330), sirens were wailed simultaneously in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and the northern city of Haifa, sending tens of thousands of civilians to protected spaces and shelters.
The military spokesperson said that Iron Dome anti-missile defense system intercepted two rockets above Tel Aviv.
A third rocket fell outside Haifa, the spokesperson added. The rocket automatically set off sirens also in the far-north town of Naharia, near the Israel-Lebanon border, but apparently no rockets fell in this region.
Earlier on Sunday, a rocket hit the town of Ashkelon in southern Israel, severely wounding a 16-year-old youth.
Israel began Operation Protective Edge on Tuesday in order to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.
So far, the strikes killed at least 167 Palestinians and wounded more than 780, according the Ministry of Health and Gaza- based Al Meazan Center for Human Rights. The UN estimates that about 80 percent of the casualties were civilians.
On Sunday, the military said it dispersed leaflets above the northern Gaza Strip, urging the residents to evacuate their homes as the army prepares for a massive bombing of the area. "The area will be wiped out," a senior Israeli official told Ynet news website.
On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a statement that urges for calm and peace talks. The statement called on Israel and Hamas to reinstate the truce agreement which ended the previous round of fighting in 2012.
Foreign ministers of the major powers are expected to discuss the situation in the area in their meeting Sunday in Vienna.
However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel is determined to pound Hamas sites until the rocket fires towards Israel cease. "This operation could yet take a long time," he said.