Hundreds of Palestinians formed a human shield around the home of a militant in the northern Gaza Strip late Saturday to prevent an Israeli airstrike on the building, residents said.

People flocked to the home of Mohammedweil Baroud after he received a warning from the army late Saturday giving him 30 minutes to leave the house. Barhoud is a commander in the Popular Resistance Committees in the northern town of Beit Lahiya who is charge of firing homemade rockets at Israel. Crowds of people stood on the rooftop and in the yard of the home.

Israel routinely orders occupants out of homes ahead of airstrikes on suspected weapons-storage facilities, saying it wants to avoid casualties. The incident in Beit Lahiya was the first time Palestinians have tried to prevent such an airstrike.

The crowd chanted anti-Israel and anti-American slogans, and people said they were prepared to give their lives to protect the home. "Yes to martyrdom. No to surrender," the crowd chanted.

"We came here to protect this fighter, to protect his house and to prove that we are capable of defeating this Zionist policy," said Nizar Rayan, a local Hamas leader who joined the protest,

The Israeli army had no immediate comment.