Mahmud Hams Agence France-Presse A panache Smoke rose above buildings in Gaza on Sunday following an Israeli airstrike. Israeli forces have been battling Hamas since Saturday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “long and difficult” war.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has left nearly a thousand dead in total in less than 48 hours, according to new official reports published on Sunday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of a “long” war.
More than 600 people have been killed in Israel, data on the Facebook account of the Government Press Office (GPO) shows, and of the 2,000 injured in the country, 200 are “in critical condition”, said a head of the GPO at AFP.
In the Gaza Strip under Hamas control since 2007, 370 Palestinians have been killed, local authorities announced, and nearly 2,000 injured.
The Israeli army has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to regain full control of the southern desert regions near the Gaza Strip, with the aim of rescuing remaining Israeli hostages and evacuating everyone residents of the region between now and Monday morning in order to comb the area. Hamas took “more than 100 prisoners,” the GPO said on Sunday.
Seeking to regain control after the surprise offensive launched on Saturday at dawn in the middle of Shabbat, the Jewish weekly rest, Israeli forces continued to track down Hamas elements infiltrated in southern Israel on Sunday and continued their airstrikes against targets in Gaza, where more buildings were destroyed.
“Kill every terrorist”
“We will… kill every terrorist in Israel,” said army spokesman General Daniel Hagari. Israeli forces said they had retaken the police station in Sderot, after “neutralizing 10 terrorists who were there.” An AFP journalist noted that the building was completely gutted.
“The first phase is ending […] with the elimination of the vast majority of enemy forces who infiltrated into our territory,” Netanyahu said, warning that “the war would be long and difficult.”
Photo: Oren Ziv Agence France-Presse These Israeli soldiers were deployed on Saturday to an area where civilians were killed, in the town of Sderot, in the south of the country.
A 37-year-old Israeli woman said she was horrified to see several members of her family kidnapped in videos from Gaza, including her cousin and her children, aged nine months and three years. “This is the only confirmation we have,” Yifat Zailer told AFP by telephone, his voice breaking, adding that he had no information about his cousin's husband and his elderly parents.
Under the cover of a deluge of rockets fired at Israel, Hamas fighters, aboard vehicles, boats and even motorized paragliders, made use of the imposing barrier around Gaza on Saturday, attacking military positions and civilians in the street.
A former Israeli soldier said the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, which remains a national trauma in Israel, was “a small matter” compared to Saturday's Hamas raid, adding that it is a “very serious failure.”
“Lots of bodies”
Israel was further attacked on its northern border with Lebanon. Lebanese Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas and Iran, fired shells into a contested area of the border, prompting an Israeli drone strike on a Hezbollah target in southern Lebanon. But the front then remained calm.
In Egypt, two Israeli tourists were killed by a police officer who shot at them in Alexandria, according to a media outlet.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, claimed to have captured “many soldiers.” “What happened is unprecedented in Israel,” admitted Mr. Netanyahu.
Photo: Mahmud Hams Agence France-Presse Residents on Sunday noted the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City.
Faced with the Israeli counter-offensive, “we fear the destruction and end of civil society in the Gaza Strip […]. We are entering a phase of destruction,” said Chadi al-Assi, a 29-year-old Gaza resident.
Security Council meeting
The Hamas offensive was launched 50 years and one day after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War which took Israel completely by surprise, resulting in the deaths of 2,600 Israelis in three weeks of fighting.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military branch, announced that they had launched the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation against Israel on Saturday and had fired more than “5,000 rockets” 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 for more than 15 years.
The Israeli army, which counted more than 3,000 shots Palestinians, triggered Operation Iron Sabres, destroying buildings presented as Hamas “command centers” in Gaza.
Israel, which has subjected the Gaza Strip to a strict blockade since 2007, suspended deliveries of electricity, food and goods to the Palestinian territory.
Schools remained closed on Sunday, the start of the week in Israel.
The Hamas attack was condemned by the West, the United States will “probably” give details of new military aid to Israel on Sunday, said the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken.
The UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting on the situation on Sunday.
This offensive was launched while negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia under the aegis of the United States, seemed to be accelerating towards normalization, a major rapprochement condemned by Hamas and its Iranian ally. “Iran supports the self-defense of the Palestinian nation,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi said Sunday.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis called for “the attacks to stop” in Israel, saying that “ terrorism and war lead to no solution.”