JERUSALEM- Following a massive surprise attack by Palestinian militants, Israeli forces engaged holdout Hamas fighters and pounded targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
As the Israeli army sent tens of thousands of soldiers to secure southern desert areas close to the coastal enclave in an effort to free Israeli hostages and then evacuate the entire area within 24 hours, gunfights broke out in towns and on major thoroughfares.
A day after hundreds of Hamas fighters entered Israel using cars, boats, and even motorized paragliders, military spokesman Daniel Hagari vowed,” We’ll reach every community until we kill every terrorist in Israel.”
In the midst of the fighting, which has claimed hundreds of lives on both sides, he told reporters,” Our mission for the next 24 hours is to evacuate all residents” from areas near the Gaza Strip.
When Lebanon’s Hezbollah launched guided missiles and artillery shells” in solidarity” with the unprecedented Hamas offensive on Sunday, Israel was also attacked from the north without suffering any casualties.
Israel was shocked when the ruling Islamist movement in Gaza launched its multi-pronged shock offensive at dawn on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, attacking and infiltrating Israeli towns and kibbutz communities and storming what was reportedly an outdoor rave party with thousands of rockets, ground, air, and sea forces.
As they hid inside their homes from militants knocking on doors and shooting or dragging civilians away, panicked Israelis called media outlets.
More than 200 Israelis have died and over 2,000 have been injured in the worst fighting in decades, leaving civilian bodies scattered across the roads. At least 313 people have perished and more than 1,700 have reportedly been wounded in Gaza.
Unknown numbers of Israelis were kidnapped as hostages, shocking Israel and making its military retaliation campaign much more difficult.
Numerous Israeli prisoners, including numerous women, children, and elders, are thought to have been taken into the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli news website Ynet.
Two Thai nationals were among the victims, and it was thought that thousands of other Asian residents who work as farm laborers in the area were also hostages.
Israeli forces and Hamas fighters engaged in gunfights on Sunday, including at a police station in Sderot where, according to police,” special forces neutralized 10 armed terrorists.”
After the military released the names of 26 fallen soldiers, army spokesman Richard Hecht said,” Many people have been killed.” ” We lost a lot of civilians as well as soldiers and commanders.”
The army had attacked 426 Hamas targets, including Gaza tunnels, buildings, and other infrastructure, he continued, adding,” We are completing efforts to retake full control of Israeli territory from Gazas.”
The attack by Hamas, which Washington and Brussels view as a terrorist organization, has sparked growing concern throughout the world.
Iran and Hezbollah, two of Israel’s adversaries, have praised the attack.
Germany and France were among the nations stepping up security around Jewish temples and schools as anti-Israel protests erupted in some other Muslim nations.
A police officer randomly opened fire on two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian guide on Sunday in Alexandria, Egypt, leading to their arrest.
Netanyahu, who is in charge of a hard-right government but has support from political rivals during Israel’s national emergency, has vowed to destroy Hamas’ hideouts and urged Palestinians to flee as airstrikes continue.
A murderous Hamas attack forced us into a protracted and challenging war, Netanyahu wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
He continued, pledging no” repite” until victory,” The first stage is ending at this point with the destruction of the vast majority of enemy forces that infiltrated our territory.”
Joe Biden, the president of the United States, has expressed” rock solid and unwavering” support for Israel, its principal ally, and” warned against any other hostile party seeking advantage in this situation.”
However, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon entered the conflict from the north early on Sunday.
In solidarity with Hamas, it claimed to have fired” large numbers of artillery shells and guided missiles”” at positions in contested border areas.”
Following earlier artillery fire on Lebanon in response to a shot from the region, Israel’s army gathered tanks in the north.
LET OUR LAND BE LIBERATE
Operation Al-Aqsa Flood has been designated as Hamas’ main assault, and it has urged resistance fighters in the West Bank as well as in” Arab and Islamic nations” to join the conflict.
Its attack occurred fifty years after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war broke out, shocking Israel and igniting bitter internal accusations of what was widely regarded as a massive intelligence failure.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas, has foretold” victory” and vowed to continue” the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons.”
Israel reported about 3, 000 incoming projectiles, while Hamas reported firing 5,000 rockets on Saturday. Many smashed into buildings all the way to Tel Aviv by getting around the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Hundreds of Hamas fighters breached the militarized Gaza border fence and entered Israel under the cover of the rocket barrage.
Some observers predicted a potential ground invasion of Gaza as Israel rushed forces to the troubled south, summoned reservists, and attacked Gaza in” Swords of Iron” operation.
In what Israel claimed were attacks on Hamas facilities and in response to calls for evacuation, Israeli attacks have left several Gaza residential towers in ruins.
In Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, a mosque was completely destroyed by another attack.
Israel’s crippling blockade of the 2.3 million-person impoverished enclave of Gaza resulted from Hamas’ takeover in 2007. Since then, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of wars, the most recent of which killed 34 Palestinians and one Israeli in May.
The new conflict comes after months of escalating violence in the West Bank, Gaza’s border, and contentious Jerusalem holy sites.
According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, the conflict had already claimed the lives of at least 247 Palestinians, including 32 Israelis and two foreigners.
At least seven Palestinians were killed when violence erupted in the West Bank on Saturday, according to the Ramallah health ministry.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the UN, urged” all diplomatic efforts to avoid a wider conflagration” and emphasized that” peace can only be achieved through negotiations leading to two-state solutions.”