More than 24 hours after Hamas launched its unprecedented incursion out of Gaza, Israeli forces were still trying to defeat the last groups of militants holed up in several towns. 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel and more than 300 have been killed in Gaza as Israeli airstrikes pound the territory.
The major question was whether Israel would launch a ground assault into Gaza, a move that in the past has brought intensified casualties. In Northern Israel, a brief exchange of strikes with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group fanned fears that the fighting could expand into a wider regional war.
Authorities were still trying to determine how many civilians and soldiers were seized by Hamas fighters during the mayhem and taken back to Gaza. From videos and witnesses, the captives are known to include women, children, and the elderly.
U.S. Secretary of State Andrew Blinken said as many as 1,000 Hamas fighters were involved in the assault. The gunman rampaged for hours, gunning down civilians in towns, and a music festival being held in the desert near Gaza.
Israel has hit more than 800 targets in Gaza so far.
“We will continue to attack this way, with this force, continuously, on all gathering (places) and routes” used by Hamas, Hagari said.
A line of Israelis sneaked outside a central Israel police station to supply DNA samples and other means that could help identify missing family members. Israeli TV news aired a stream of accounts from relatives of captive or missing Israelis who wept and begged for assistance and information.
In Gaza, 2.3 million people sealed off by an Israeli-Egyptian blockage for 16 years since Hamas takeover, residents feared an intensified onslaught. 74,000 displaced Gazans were staying in 64 shelters, with the number expected to increase. UNWRA, said a school sheltering more than 225 people took a direct hit. It did not say where the fire came from.
At least 700 people have been killed in Israel, including 44 soldiers. 313 people, including 20 children were killed in the territory. 2,000 people have been wounded on each side. An Israeli official said security forces have killed 400 militants and captured dozens more.
Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets and shells Sunday in a disputed area along the border. Two children were lightly wounded by broken glass on the Lebanese side.
Netanyahu vowed; “The war will take time. It will be difficult.”