The Israeli government has officially declared war, signaling comprehensive military action in retaliation against Hamas following the sudden assault. The warfare escalated into Monday as Israeli forces endeavored to subdue militants in southern townships and intensified their bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The conflict has a devastating toll, with over 1,100 fatalities and thousands injured on both sides so far.
Israeli forces are engaged in grueling combat with Hamas militants over 40 hours since the unprecedented intrusion launched from Gaza. The conflict has resulted in the loss of around 700 lives in Israel, a tragic scale of casualties unseen in many decades. Meanwhile, Gaza has reported more than 400 fatalities.
In response to the assault, Israel has mobilized its special forces to regain control over four locations seized by Hamas fighters. These sites include two kibbutzim infiltrated by militants early in their attacks. Live footage from one of the zones depict armed forces crouched in tall grass, trading fire with Hamas militants across an open field.
The official declaration of war hints at more intense combat in the coming days. Questions loom regarding the possibility of Israel initiating a ground offensive into Gaza, a strategy that, in the past, has resulted in drastically escalating casualties.
Simultaneously, Hamas, along with the lesser-known Islamic Jihad group, claim to have apprehended over 130 individuals from Israel, indicating they would exchange them for thousands of imprisoned Palestinians. This unverified announcement marks the first revelation about the suspected abductions.
In a daring display of strategic planning, the Israeli military estimates that 1,000 Hamas fighters were part of the inaugural incursion on Saturday. A response to the perceived suffering of Palestinians under Israel’s occupation and blockade of Gaza, militants caused widespread havoc for several hours, ending lives indiscriminately and capturing civilians.
In retaliation, Israel has struck over 800 targets in Gaza, according to military sources, resulting in widespread devastation, particularly in the town of Beit Hanoun, in the northeast corner of the enclave.
Civilian populations on both sides continue to pay a heavy price in this escalating conflict, with the Israeli military initiating evacuation protocols for at least five towns near Gaza. As the ominous cloud of warfare looms, residents in a tiny enclave of Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, and subject to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 16 years since Hamas’ takeover, fear further escalation.
As of late Sunday, retaliatory strikes by Israel had destroyed 159 housing units across Gaza and severely damaged 1,210 others, according to the UN. The number of displaced Gazans had surged into tens of thousands, exceeding 123,000. UNRWA reported a direct hit on a school sheltering more than 225 people. Casualties have not been confirmed.
According to several Israeli media outlets quoting rescue service officials, at least 700 people, including 44 soldiers, have lost their lives in the recent clashes in Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry states that 413 people, including 78 children and 41 women, have been killed in their territory, with about 2,000 wounded on both sides.
A skirmish with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group in Northern Israel has sparked concerns about the conflict extending into a broader regional war. After minor reciprocal strikes along the border, the situation remains tenuous.
Israel’s announcement of war against Hamas, although largely symbolic, indicates the country’s anticipation of a prolonged, intense period of warfare. Over the past four decades, Israel has initiated significant military campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza, framed as wars, albeit without an official declaration.
Still grappling with the sheer scale, brutality, and abruptness of the Hamas assault, Israelis are in shock. Early Saturday, the militant group’s fighters breached Israel’s security fence around the Gaza Strip, infiltrating nearby Israeli communities in over 20 locations.
The high death toll and delayed response spotlight a major intelligence failure, shattering the perception that Israel has in-depth surveillance in the small, densely populated territory it has controlled for years.
However, the presence of hostages in Gaza presents a complex challenge to Israel’s response strategy. The country has a history of conducting heavily lopsided exchanges to secure the return of captive Israelis.
Amid the escalating conflict, six Palestinians were killed in altercations with Israeli soldiers around the West Bank on Sunday. Over the past year, settlement construction in the occupied West Bank has been intensified by Israel’s far-right government. This has resulted in the displacement of several hundred Palestinians due to settler aggression, and tensions have mounted around the Al-Aqsa mosque, a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem.