Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog on a “protracted” war that left nearly 1,000 dead in less than 48 hours
Global concern prevails after the “Israeli September 11”. Facing the deadliest attack on its soil since its establishment in 1948, Israel on Sunday formally declared war on Hamas following the Palestinian Islamist movement’s unprecedented attack from the Gaza Strip yesterday morning, with the number of the dead to amount to less than 48 hours of fighting and conflict to over 1,000 dead in total and an unspecified number of hostages.
Seeking to regain control after this large-scale attack – by land, sea and air – in the middle of Shabbat, Israeli forces today continued to pursue Hamas members in southern Israel and continued their airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip , destroying buildings, killing civilians.
This blockaded Palestinian enclave experienced its deadliest day in 15 years of Israeli raids, according to Palestinian officials.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog have warned of a “protracted” war that has left nearly 1,000 dead in less than 48 hours, according to the latest official tally released late Sunday. More than 600 people were killed in Israel and 2,000 injured, including 200 “in critical condition,” according to government figures. Israeli media reports at least 700 Israelis dead.
“Enemy forces are still on the ground” of Israel and “we are strengthening our forces, especially near the Gaza Strip, clearing the area,” an Israeli military spokesman said this afternoon, vowing that the Israeli armed forces would pursue “terrorists wherever they are.”
Last night Israel’s security cabinet voted to put the country officially at war to carry out “significant military activities”. Netanyahu had already said since yesterday morning that Israel is at war after Hamas fighters infiltrated southern Israel. The Security Council’s decision provided the legal basis for declaring the country in a state of war.
Regaining control and distress for prisoners
In the Gaza Strip under Hamas control since 2007, 413 Palestinians, including 78 children and 41 women, were killed in Israeli raids, local authorities said. Also 2,300 people have been injured.
The Israeli army deployed tens of thousands of troops to regain full control of the desert areas near the Gaza Strip, rescue Israeli hostages still there and evacuate all residents of the area by Monday morning. Hamas has captured “more than 100 prisoners,” the Israeli government said today.
“Civilians and soldiers are in the hands of the enemy, we are at war,” said Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi.
Israeli media reported about 170 Israelis in captivity in Gaza. Shocking scenes on social media show kidnappings of women, children and the elderly. The images of Palestinian victims from Israeli bombings are also shocking.
Many victims in Israel were young participants in a festival in the Negev desert. There are also many foreign nationals who were killed in the attacks of Hamas, or were captured and held in the Gaza Strip.
At least three Americans were killed after the attacks launched by Hamas in Israel yesterday, CNN reported this evening. A French woman was also killed in this Hamas attack, two Mexican nationals are believed to be held hostage by Hamas, ten Nepalis were also killed. At least five German nationals among Hamas prisoners. British and Ukrainians are among the dead.
However, the number of hostages remains unclear, as do many of their nationalities. The Israeli ambassador to the US spoke of “dozens” of American prisoners.
Many Israelis have turned to social media since yesterday to try to find their loved ones. In Lod, near Ben Gurion International Airport, police and Israel Civil Defense have opened a “missing persons management center” to try to provide information.
The spokesman for the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), General Daniel Hagari, referring to the questions that have been raised about the surprise of the Israeli Defense Forces by yesterday’s attack by Hamas, emphasized: “There are difficult questions that need to be answered and a thorough investigation is required. The Israeli public deserves answers and it is our responsibility to provide them.”
“Right now we are at war. The IDF is fully committed to attacking and defeating the enemy. We will fight first and then we will investigate,” he stressed.
For his part, the Israeli president asked for “unity to the people, to the parliament asking for the formation of an emergency government.”
“The first phase is completed (…) with the elimination of the vast majority of enemy forces that have infiltrated our territory,” Netanyahu said, warning that “the war will be long and difficult.”
On Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas and Iran, fired shells into a disputed border area, prompting an Israeli drone strike targeting Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon.
A senior Hezbollah official has pledged unreserved support for the Palestinians and said the organization is “not neutral” in the current escalation between the Palestinians and Israel.
In Egypt, two Israeli tourists were killed by a police officer who shot them in Alexandria, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian militant group, claimed to have captured “many soldiers”. The head of Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhla, said this evening that his organization is holding more than 30 Israeli hostages.
“What happened is unprecedented in Israel,” Netanyahu admitted.
“Israel was taken by surprise by this unprecedented attack,” said Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Scowcroft Initiative on Middle East Security: “I’ve heard many comparisons to 9/11 and many Israelis struggle to understand how this could happen.”
An Israeli ex-soldier said the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, which remains a national trauma in Israel, is a “small affair” compared to yesterday’s raid by Hamas, calling it a “very serious failure”.
The attack came on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in Israel and one day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that caught Israel by surprise and took place during Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement). That war left 2,600 Israelis dead and at least 9,500 dead and missing on the Arab side in three weeks of fighting.
Faced with the Israeli counterattack, “we fear destruction and the end of civil society in the Gaza Strip,” said Chadi al-Ashi, a 29-year-old Gaza resident.
Today, fighting continued with more attacks by Hamas from Gaza, including rocket attacks on Israeli border towns, according to the Israeli military. Initially taken by surprise, the Israeli military today coordinated counter-offensive operations in the Gaza Strip.
The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced that it launched this operation and fired more than 5,000 rockets at Israel to “put an end to the crimes of the occupation.” Israel has occupied the West Bank, a Palestinian territory, and the eastern part of Jerusalem since 1967, and has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007.
Israel ended the blackout of the Palestinian enclave and suspended the delivery of food and goods there.
Israel’s Ministry of Education announced that schools in Israel will remain closed until Tuesday.
While the UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting on the situation later on Sunday, since yesterday most Western countries have strongly condemned the Hamas attacks, voicing unwavering support for Israel in a series of phone calls between Western leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu .
The US, a traditional ally of Israel, announced the immediate shipment of additional ammunition to Israel, and that the US military is in the process of strengthening its military presence in the Middle East. Washington specifically emphasized that an aircraft carrier strike group is moving into the sea area closer to Israel, and this group includes the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and ships that support it. The Pentagon will also deploy additional fighter jets to the region.
Washington’s announced increase in military support to Israel to help the Jewish state amounts to “participating in an attack against our people,” Hamas said late Sunday night.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today urged Israel and Hamas to “support peace”.
For its part, Iran stressed that it “supports the legitimate defense of the Palestinian nation”, Iranian President Ebrahim Raishi said today. According to Iranian media, Raisi spoke today with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and the head of Islamic Jihad.
Numerous airlines have suspended flights to Tel Aviv. The Polish government has announced that it is sending military planes to fly its nationals out of Israel.
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