Fighting between Israeli forces and the Palestinian group Hamas has intensified, with hundreds killed on both sides after an attack on Israel prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn they were “embarking on long and difficult war”.
“We are in a war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a video on social media. He ordered strikes on Gaza and called for an “extensive reserve mobilisation” as the nation responds to the unprecedented incursion.
Hamas militants fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of fighters into Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented surprise early morning attack during a major Jewish holiday on October 7, killing dozens and stunning the country.
Hamas fighters used explosives to break through the border fence enclosing the long-blockaded Mediterranean territory, then crossed with motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders and speed boats on the coast.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military will use all of its strength to destroy Hamas’ capabilities.
Netanyahu vowed to avenge what he said was a “black day” for Israel. “The IDF (army) is about to use all its force to destroy Hamas’s capabilities. We’ll strike them to the bitter end and avenge with force this black day they brought on Israel and its people,” he said.
He warned Palestinians living near Hamas sites in Gaza to leave as he vowed to turn its hideouts into “rubble” following its surprise attack. “I’m telling the people of Gaza: get out of there now, because we’re about to act everywhere with all our force,” he said.
The Israeli forces launched “Operation Swords of Iron”, striking a number of targets in the Gaza Strip. “We have seen the face of evil. Hamas launched a criminal attack, without distinguishing between women, children and the elderly. It will realise very quickly that it made a grave mistake. We will change the face of reality in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said in a video statement.
Israeli officials said about 100 soldiers and civilians have been kidnapped by Hamas. “Terrorists rampaged and broke into homes, massacring civilians. Hundreds had invaded the country, hundreds are still fighting troops inside Israel,” army spokesman Richard Hecht said.
As the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting today, US President Joe Biden voiced “rock solid and unwavering” support for Israel and warned “against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation”.
Pope Francis called for an end to attacks and violence in Israel and Gaza on Sunday.
“I express my solidarity with the relatives of the victims, and I pray for all those who are experiencing hours of terror and anguish,” he said. “Let the attacks and weapons cease, please, because it must be understood that terrorism and war bring no solutions, but only to the death and suffering of many innocent lives. War is a defeat, every war is a defeat. Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine,” the pope said.
Israel launched retaliatory strikes against 17 military compounds and locations connected to Hamas’s leadership in Gaza. Israel Defense Forces went house to house in the southern part of the country near Gaza, in an effort to clear the area of Hamas militants.
The Indian embassy in Israel has asked its citizens to remain vigilant and observe safety protocols as advised by local authorities. “Please exercise caution, avoid unnecessary movement, and stay close to safety shelters,” it said in an advisory.
Israeli troops are still combing several areas in their country’s south after they fought overnight to drive out Hamas intruders who had crossed from Gaza. The Palestinian enclave came under heavy Israeli bombardment, while Hamas said the dozens of Israelis it abducted during its incursion were now spread out across its territory.
(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: Reuters)