Israel battles Hamas militants as country’s death toll reaches 600

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli troopers battled Hamas fighters within the streets of southern Israel on Sunday and launched retaliation strikes that leveled buildings in Gaza, whereas in northern Israel a quick change of strikes with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group raised fears of a broader battle.

The combating raged on greater than 24 hours after an unprecedented shock assault from Gaza, through which Hamas militants, backed by a volley of 1000’s of rockets, broke by Israel’s safety barrier and rampaged by close by communities. At least 600 individuals had been reportedly killed in Israel — a staggering toll on a scale the nation has not skilled in many years — and greater than 300 have been killed in Gaza.

The militants additionally took captives again into the coastal Gaza enclave, together with girls, youngsters and the aged, whom they are going to probably attempt to commerce for 1000’s of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken advised CNN’s “State of the Union” that the U.S. is working to confirm experiences that a number of Americans had been killed or are lacking.

The excessive death toll, the captives and the gradual response to the onslaught pointed to a serious intelligence failure and undermined the long-held notion that Israel has eyes and ears in all places within the small, densely populated territory it has managed for many years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated the nation was at battle and would precise a heavy value from its enemies. His Security Cabinet formally declared the nation at battle Sunday, saying the choice formally authorizes “the taking of significant military steps.”

The implications of the announcement weren’t instantly clear. Israel has carried out main army campaigns over the previous 4 many years in Lebanon and Gaza that it portrayed as wars, however and not using a formal declaration.

Yohanan Plesner, the top of the Israel Democracy Institute, a neighborhood suppose tank, stated the choice is essentially symbolic, however “demonstrates that the government thinks we are entering a more lengthy, intense and significant period of war.”

Palestinians examine the rubble of a constructing after it was struck by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

A significant query was whether or not Israel would launch a floor assault into Gaza, a transfer that previously has introduced intensified casualties. Netanyahu vowed that Hamas “will pay an unprecedented price.” But he warned: “This war will take time. It will be difficult.”

Civilians paid a staggering price for the violence on either side. Several Israeli media retailers, citing rescue service officers, stated at the least 600 individuals had been killed in Israel, together with 44 troopers, whereas officers in Gaza stated 313 individuals had died within the territory. Some 2,000 individuals have been wounded on both sides. An Israeli official stated safety forces have killed 400 militants and captured dozens extra.

Israeli TV information aired a stream of accounts from the kinfolk of captive or lacking Israelis, who wailed and begged for help amid a fog of uncertainty surrounding the destiny of their family members. In Gaza, residents fled houses close to the border to flee Israeli strikes, fleeing deeper contained in the territory after warnings in Arabic from the Israeli army.

In neighboring Egypt, a police officer shot lifeless two Israeli vacationers and an Egyptian at a vacationer website in Alexandria, the Interior Ministry stated. Egypt made peace with Israel many years in the past, however anti-Israel sentiment runs excessive within the nation, particularly throughout bouts of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The flare-up on Israel’s northern border additionally threatened to attract into the battle Hezbollah, a fierce enemy of Israel that’s backed by Iran and estimated to have tens of 1000’s of rockets at its disposal.

Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets and shells Sunday at three Israeli positions in a disputed space alongside the border, and Israel’s army fired again utilizing armed drones. Two youngsters had been frivolously wounded by damaged glass on the Lebanese aspect, in accordance with the close by Marjayoun Hospital.

Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari advised reporters the state of affairs on the northern border was calm after the change. But he stated combating was nonetheless underway within the south.

He stated troops had moved into each group close to the Gaza frontier, the place they deliberate to evacuate all civilians and scour the world for militants.

“We will go through every community until we kill every terrorist that is in Israeli territory,” he stated. In Gaza, “every terrorist located in a house, all the commanders in houses, will be hit by Israeli fire. That will continue escalating in the coming hours.”

Hamas stated it had continued to ship forces and gear in a single day into “a number of locations inside our occupied territories,” referring to Israel. Hamas-linked media reported that the son of Nizar Awadallah, a senior political official, was killed. The Islamic militant group has not reported any senior members being captured, killed or wounded.

The shock assault Saturday was the deadliest on Israel in many years. In an assault of startling breadth, Hamas gunmen used explosives to interrupt by the border fence enclosing Gaza, then crossed with bikes, pickup vans, paragliders and speedboats on the coast.

They rolled into as many as 22 places outdoors the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning, together with cities and different communities as far as 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Gaza border, whereas Hamas launched 1000’s of rockets at Israeli cities.

Israel struck 426 targets in Gaza, its army stated, flattening residential buildings in big explosions.

UNRWA, the U.N. company for Palestinian refugees, stated greater than 20,000 Palestinians left Gaza’s border area to move additional contained in the territory and take refuge in U.N. faculties.

In a televised tackle Saturday evening, Netanyahu stated the army will use all of its energy to destroy Hamas’ capabilities.

“Get out of there now,” he advised Gaza residents, who don’t have any option to go away the tiny, overcrowded Mediterranean territory. Gaza’s 2.3 million individuals have endured a border blockade, enforced to various levels by Israel and Egypt, since Hamas militants seized management in 2007.

In Gaza, a lot of the inhabitants was thrown into darkness Saturday evening as Israel reduce off electrical energy and stated it could not provide energy, gasoline or different items to the territory.

Hamas stated it had deliberate for a protracted struggle.

“We are prepared for all options, including all-out war,” the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, advised Al-Jazeera TV.

Israel has a historical past of constructing closely lopsided exchanges to carry captive Israelis house. The army confirmed {that a} “substantial” variety of Israelis had been kidnapped Saturday with out giving a precise determine.

An Egyptian official stated Israel sought assist from Cairo to make sure the security of the hostages, and that Egypt’s intelligence chief contacted Hamas and the smaller however extra radical Islamic Jihad group, which additionally took half within the incursion, to hunt data. Egypt has typically mediated between the 2 sides prior to now.

The official stated Palestinian leaders claimed that they don’t but have a “full picture” of hostages, however stated those that had been introduced into Gaza had been taken to “secure locations” throughout the territory.

“It’s clear that they have a big number — several dozens,” stated the official, who requested to not be recognized as a result of he was not licensed to temporary media.

Egypt additionally spoke with either side a couple of potential cease-fire, however the official stated Israel was not open to a truce “at this stage.”

In Iran, which has lengthy supported Hamas and different militant teams, President Ebrahim Raisi praised the “legitimate defense” of the Palestinian nation and stated Israel and its supporters “must be held accountable.” Raisi spoke by cellphone with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad chief Ziad al-Nakhalah, the state-run IRNA information company reported Sunday.

The shadowy chief of Hamas’ army wing, Mohammed Deif, stated the assault, named “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, and a collection of latest incidents which have introduced Israeli-Palestinian tensions to a fever pitch.

Over the previous 12 months, Israel’s far-right authorities has ramped up settlement building within the occupied West Bank. Israeli settler violence has displaced lots of of Palestinians there, and tensions have flared across the Al-Aqsa mosque, a flashpoint Jerusalem holy website.


Shurafa reported from Gaza City. Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre, Julia Frankel and Josef Federman in Jerusalem; Issam Adwan in Rafah, Gaza Strip; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Samy Magdy in Cairo; and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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