Israeli death toll from Hamas attack surpasses 600 as Jewish state pounds Gaza Strip

Israeli death toll

JERUSALEM: Israel formally declared a state of war on Sunday in response to the unprecedented Hamas attack that occurred a day earlier, resulting in the death of 600 Israeli nationals including security personnel.

Over a hundred Israelis remain missing and are believed to have been abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip by Hamas militants.

On Sunday afternoon, Israeli jets conducted intense airstrikes on Gaza, following an announcement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office that the security cabinet had voted to officially declare a state of war. This declaration grants Israel the authority to carry out significant military operations, according to a report in Times of Israel.

Ongoing battles continued on Sunday in at least three communities near the Gaza border, which had been overrun by Hamas gunmen the previous day. Rocket attacks persisted on Israeli communities, as the nation prepared for what is anticipated to be an extended campaign against the Gaza-based terror group.

Hamas militants launched an extensive assault on Saturday morning, infiltrating as many as 22 locations in southern Israel, including towns and smaller communities situated up to 15 miles from the Gaza border. In some areas, the attackers roamed freely for hours, targeting civilians and soldiers while Israel’s military scrambled to respond. Simultaneously, thousands of rockets were fired at towns in the south and center of Israel.

The scenes of chaos and suffering, as well as the protracted struggle to regain control of the situation, have shocked and angered Israel. This crisis has sparked demands for answers regarding the various failures in intelligence, deployment, and policy that contributed to this national catastrophe. Hundreds of militants infiltrated civilian communities in armed convoys.

Israeli officials estimated on Sunday that more than 600 people were killed in the massive assault launched by Hamas militants in Israeli communities near Gaza and by the thousands of rockets fired into Israel, marking the bloodiest day in the nation’s history.

A spokesperson for ZAKA, a volunteer group responsible for handling human remains after attacks and disasters, reported a sharp increase in the death toll as Israeli teams cleared Hamas gunmen from communities along the border and recovered victims.

The Israeli Health Ministry reported that the number of wounded in hospitals had reached 2,156, with 20 in critical condition and 338 seriously wounded.

As Israeli communities were liberated from Hamas control, shocking scenes emerged of streets, fields, and highways littered with bodies, abandoned vehicles, and personal belongings.

Additionally, Hamas gunmen captured an unknown number of Israeli civilians and soldiers and took them into Gaza after overrunning several military bases and communities.

Social media circulated videos of men, women, and children being carried into Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) established a situation room to gather accurate information about the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The IDF team aims to compile a situational picture to locate the captives, both soldiers and civilians.

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The Government Press Office stated that the number of hostages in Gaza exceeded 100, including small children, the elderly, and foreign nationals, such as 11 Thais working on farms near the border.

Meanwhile, Egypt had been approached by Israel to assist in ensuring the safety of the hostages. Egypt’s intelligence chief had contacted Hamas and the smaller but more radical Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which also participated in the incursion, to seek information. However, both Israel and Hamas denied that talks over the hostages were taking place.

Despite the complications posed by the existence of Israeli hostages in Gaza, Israeli jets continued to target Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions throughout the Strip.

In total, more than 500 sites have been targeted by the IDF since the war began early Saturday. The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip reported 370 Palestinians killed and another 2,200 wounded. The IDF has confirmed killing more than 400 Palestinians in both Israel and Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces were still engaged in clearing militant cells entrenched within devastated communities over 34 hours after the coordinated assault commenced. Heavy gun battles were reported between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the southern town of Magen, near the border with the Gaza Strip.

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