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Hamas fighters storm Israeli cities in shock assault; Israel responds with lethal strikes on Gaza

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JERUSALEM — Hamas militants broke out of the blockaded Gaza Strip and rampaged by means of close by Israeli communities, killing at the very least 250 individuals and abducting others in an unprecedented shock assault throughout a serious Jewish vacation Saturday. Israel responded with strikes in Gaza that killed 232 and signaled extra as its prime minister mentioned the nation is at struggle and vowed to inflict an “unprecedented worth.”

In an assault of startling breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 areas outdoors the Gaza Strip, together with cities and different communities so far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border. In some locations they gunned down civilians and troopers as Israel’s navy scrambled to muster a response.

Gun battles continued nicely after dusk, and militants held hostages in standoffs in two cities. Militants occupied a police station in a 3rd city, the place Israeli forces struggled till Sunday morning to lastly reclaim the constructing. An Israeli navy spokesperson mentioned Sunday morning that the hostage conditions had been “resolved,” however didn’t say whether or not all of the hostages had been rescued alive.

Twenty-four hours after the beginning of the Hamas assault, the Israeli navy had nonetheless not given an all-clear. In some cities, civilians’ our bodies lay the place that they had encountered advancing gunmen. Not less than 9 individuals gunned down at a bus shelter within the city of Sderot had been laid out on stretchers on the road, their luggage nonetheless on the curb close by. One girl, screaming, embraced the physique of a member of the family sprawled underneath a sheet subsequent to a toppled motorbike.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza intensified after dusk, flattening residential buildings in big explosions, together with a 14-story tower that held dozens of residences in addition to Hamas workplaces in central Gaza Metropolis. Israeli forces fired a warning simply earlier than.

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Not less than 232 individuals within the Gaza Strip had been killed and 1,700 wounded in Israeli strikes, the Palestinian Well being Ministry mentioned.

Israeli media, citing rescue service officers, mentioned at the very least 250 individuals had been killed and 1,500 wounded in Saturday’s assault, making it the deadliest in Israel in a long time. Hamas fighters took an unknown variety of civilians and troopers captive into Gaza.

The battle threatened to escalate with Israel’s vows of retaliation.

In a televised deal with Saturday night time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the navy will use all of its energy to destroy Hamas’ capabilities. “All of the locations that Hamas hides in, operates from, we are going to flip them into ruins,” he added.

“Get out of there now,” he instructed Gaza residents, who haven’t any strategy to depart the tiny, overcrowded Mediterranean territory.

In a single day, the Israeli navy issued warnings in Arabic to communities close to the border with Israel to go away their properties for areas deeper contained in the tiny enclave.

Gaza’s 2.3 million individuals have endured a border blockade, enforced to various levels by Israel and Egypt, since Hamas militants seized management in 2007.

Earlier conflicts between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers introduced widespread dying and destruction in Gaza and days of rocket fireplace on Israeli cities. The state of affairs is probably extra unstable now, with Israel’s far-right authorities stung by the safety breach and with Palestinians in despair over a unending occupation within the West Financial institution and suffocating blockade of Gaza.

The energy, sophistication and timing of the Saturday morning assault shocked Israelis. Hamas fighters used explosives to interrupt by means of the border fence enclosing Gaza, then crossed with bikes, pickup vans, paragliders and velocity boats on the coast.

In an novice video, tons of of terrified younger individuals who had been dancing at a rave fled for his or her lives after Hamas militants entered the realm and commenced firing at them.

Amongst these killed Saturday was Col. Jonathan Steinberg, a senior officer who commanded the Israeli navy’s Nahal Brigade, a distinguished infantry unit.

Earlier than dawn Sunday, militants fired extra rockets from Gaza, hitting a hospital within the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, mentioned senior hospital official Tal Bergman. Video supplied by Barzilai Medical Middle confirmed a big gap punched right into a wall and chunks of particles scattered on the bottom of what gave the impression to be an empty room and a hallway. The navy mentioned sufferers had been evacuated from Barzilai earlier than the strike.

College was canceled throughout Israel.

Round 3 a.m., a loudspeaker atop a mosque in Gaza Metropolis blared a stark warning to residents of close by residence buildings: Evacuate instantly. Simply minutes later, an Israeli airstrike diminished one close by five-story constructing to ashes.

After one Israeli strike, a Hamas rocket barrage hit 4 cities, together with Tel Aviv and a close-by suburb. All through the day, Hamas fired greater than 3,500 rockets, the Israeli navy mentioned.

The shadowy chief of Hamas’ navy wing, Mohammed Deif, mentioned the assault was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, and a sequence of current incidents which have introduced Israeli-Palestinian tensions to a fever pitch.

Over the previous yr, Israel’s far-right authorities has ramped up settlement building within the occupied West Financial institution, Israeli settler violence has displaced tons of of Palestinians there, and tensions have flared across the Al-Aqsa mosque, a flashpoint Jerusalem holy web site.

“Sufficient is sufficient,” Deif, who doesn’t seem in public, mentioned within the recorded message. He mentioned the assault was solely the beginning of what he known as “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm” and known as on Palestinians from east Jerusalem to northern Israel to affix the combat.

The Hamas incursion on Simchat Torah, a usually joyous day when Jews full the annual cycle of studying the Torah scroll, revived painful reminiscences of the 1973 Mideast struggle virtually 50 years to the day, wherein Egypt and Syria launched a shock assault on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, aiming to take again Israeli-occupied territories.

Comparisons to one of the vital traumatic moments in Israeli historical past sharpened criticism of Netanyahu and his far-right allies, who had campaigned on extra aggressive motion in opposition to threats from Gaza. Political commentators lambasted the federal government and navy over its failure to anticipate what gave the impression to be a Hamas assault unseen in its stage of planning and coordination.

Requested by reporters how Hamas had managed to catch the military off guard, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, replied, “That’s query.”

The kidnapping of Israeli civilians and troopers additionally raised a very thorny difficulty for Israel, which has a historical past of creating closely lopsided exchanges to convey captive Israelis residence. Israel is holding 1000’s of Palestinians in its prisons. Hecht confirmed {that a} “substantial” variety of Israelis had been kidnapped Saturday.

Related Press pictures confirmed an aged Israeli girl being introduced into Gaza on a golf cart by Hamas gunmen and one other girl squeezed between two fighters on a bike. AP journalists noticed 4 individuals taken from the kibbutz of Kfar Azza, together with two girls.

In Gaza, a black jeep pulled to a cease and, when the rear door opened, a younger girl stumbled out, bleeding from the top and together with her arms tied behind her again. A person waving a gun within the air grabbed her by the hair and pushed her into the automobile’s again seat.

Thailand’s authorities mentioned that two of its residents could have been kidnapped, although the Israeli authorities couldn’t instantly affirm the main points.

1000’s of Thai residents work in Israel, lots of them within the agriculture sector. Israeli TV reported that employees from the Philippines had been additionally among the many captives.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has put the nation’s air pressure on standby to evacuate its residents if wanted.

A significant query now was whether or not Israel will launch a floor assault into Gaza, a transfer that previously has introduced intensified casualties. Netanyahu vowed that Hamas “can pay an unprecedented worth.” However, he warned, “This struggle will take time. It is going to be troublesome.”

Israel’s navy was bringing 4 divisions of troops in addition to tanks to the Gaza border, becoming a member of 31 battalions already within the space, a spokesperson mentioned.

Hamas mentioned it had deliberate for a probably lengthy combat. “We’re ready for all choices, together with all-out struggle,” the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, instructed Al-Jazeera TV. “We’re able to do no matter is important for the dignity and freedom of our individuals.”

In Gaza, a lot of the inhabitants was thrown into darkness after dusk as electrical provides from Israel — which provides virtually all of the territories’ energy — had been lower off. Netanyahu’s workplace mentioned in an announcement that Israel would cease supplying electrical energy, gas and items to Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden mentioned from the White Home that he had spoken with Netanyahu to say the USA “stands with the individuals of Israel within the face of those terrorist assaults. Israel has the precise to defend itself and its individuals, full cease.”

Saudi Arabia, which has been in talks with the U.S. about normalizing relations with Israel, known as on either side to train restraint. The dominion mentioned it had repeatedly warned in regards to the hazard of “the state of affairs exploding on account of the continued occupation (and) the Palestinian individuals being disadvantaged of their official rights.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group congratulated Hamas, praising the assault as a response to “Israeli crimes.” The group mentioned its command in Lebanon was in touch with Hamas in regards to the operation.

The assault comes at a time of historic division inside Israel over Netanyahu’s proposal to overtake the judiciary. Mass protests over the plan have despatched tons of of 1000’s of Israeli demonstrators into the streets and prompted tons of of navy reservists to keep away from volunteer obligation — turmoil that has raised fears over the navy’s battlefield readiness.

Palestinians demonstrated in cities and cities across the West Financial institution on Saturday night time. Palestinian well being officers mentioned Israeli fireplace killed 5 there, however gave few particulars.


Shurafa reported from Gaza Metropolis. Related Press writers Isabel DeBre, Julia Frankel and Josef Federman in Jerusalem; and Issam Adwan in Rafah, Gaza Strip contributed to this report.

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