Major stock markets in the Gulf were subdued in early trade on Wednesday as Israel intensified strikes across Gaza and the army ordered fresh evacuations in the north of the enclave.

Strikes by air and shelling from tanks on the ground were also reported in central and southern areas of the Gaza Strip in what residents said late on Tuesday were almost 24 hours of non-stop bombardments.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 0.2%, hit by a 0.5% fall in AL Rajhi Bank and a 1.4% decrease in Riyad Bank.

The kingdom's economy will grow this year at a slower pace than predicted as oil prices drop from recent peaks, according to a Reuters poll that also showed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) expanding at the fastest clip in the region.

Dubai's main share index eased 0.1%, with toll operator Salik Company losing 2%, while blue-chip developer Emaar Properties was down 0.8%.

Separately, supermarket chain Spinneys' franchisee in the United Arab Emirates and Oman is seeking to raise as much as $375 million from the sale of a 25% stake in an initial public offering, it disclosed on Tuesday.

In Abu Dhabi, the index was flat.

Oil prices extended gains after industry data showed a surprise drop in U.S. crude stocks last week, a positive sign for demand, though markets were also keeping a close eye on hostilities in the Middle East.

The Qatari benchmark edged 0.1% higher.

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)