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Israel intensifies Gaza bombardment, battles to dislodge Hamas fighters from its territory

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JERUSALEM — Israel intensified its bombardments of the Gaza Strip on Monday after declaring conflict and vowing to destroy the “army and governing capabilities” of the enclave’s Hamas rulers, as Israeli troopers fought to dislodge Gaza gunmen from areas of southern Israel.

At the least 700 individuals have reportedly been killed in Israel — a staggering toll on a scale the nation has not skilled in many years — and greater than 400 have been killed in Gaza. Palestinian militant teams claimed to be holding over 130 captives from the Israeli facet.

Greater than 48 hours after Hamas launched its unprecedented incursion out of Gaza, Israeli forces had been nonetheless battling with militants holed up in a number of areas.

Israel mentioned it introduced in particular forces to attempt to wrest management of 4 Israeli websites from Hamas fighters, together with two kibbutzim that militants entered earlier of their assaults. Footage launched by Israeli police from one space confirmed forces kneeling in tall grass as they exchanged fireplace with Hamas militants throughout an open discipline.

The declaration of conflict portended higher combating forward, and a significant query was whether or not Israel would launch a floor assault into Gaza, a transfer that previously has introduced intensified casualties. An Israeli army spokesperson mentioned that the military had referred to as up round 100,000 reservists, and mentioned in an announcement that Israel would goal to finish Hamas’ rule of Gaza.

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“Our activity is to ensure that Hamas will not have any army capabilities to threaten Israel with this,” mentioned spokesperson Jonathan Conricus in a video tweeted by Israel’s army. “And along with that, we’ll ensure that Hamas is not in a position to govern the Gaza Strip.”

After breaking via Israeli obstacles with explosives at dawn Saturday, the Hamas gunmen rampaged for hours, gunning down civilians and snatching individuals in cities, alongside highways and at a techno music competition attended by hundreds within the desert. The rescue service Zaka mentioned it eliminated about 260 our bodies from the competition, and that quantity was anticipated to rise. It was not clear what number of of these our bodies had been already included in Israel’s general toll.

The Israeli army estimated 1,000 Hamas fighters took half in Saturday’s preliminary incursion. The excessive determine underscored the extent of planning by the militant group ruling Gaza, which has mentioned it launched the assault in response to mounting Palestinian struggling below Israel’s occupation and blockade of Gaza.

In response, Israel hit greater than 800 targets in Gaza, its army mentioned, together with airstrikes that leveled a lot of the city of Beit Hanoun within the enclave’s northeast nook.

Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari advised reporters Hamas was utilizing the city as a staging floor for assaults. There was no instant phrase on casualties, and many of the neighborhood’s inhabitants of tens of hundreds doubtless fled beforehand.

“We are going to proceed to assault on this approach, with this pressure, repeatedly, on all gathering (locations) and routes” utilized by Hamas, Hagari mentioned.

In the meantime, Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group claimed to have taken captive greater than 130 individuals from inside Israel and introduced them into Gaza, saying they might be traded for the discharge of hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. The announcement, although unconfirmed, was the primary signal of the scope of abductions.

The captives are identified to incorporate troopers and civilians, together with ladies, youngsters and older adults, principally Israelis but in addition some individuals of different nationalities. The Israeli army mentioned solely that the variety of captives is “important.”

Civilians on each side had been already paying a excessive worth. The Israeli army was evacuating not less than 5 cities near Gaza, whereas the U.N. greater than 123,000 Gazans had been displaced by the combating.

Mayyan Zin, a divorced mom of two, mentioned she discovered that her two daughters had been kidnapped when a relative despatched her pictures from a Telegram group displaying them sitting on mattresses in captivity. She then discovered on-line movies of a chilling scene in her ex-husband’s dwelling within the city of Nahal Oz: Gunmen who had damaged in converse to him, his leg bleeding, in the lounge close to the 2 terrified, weeping daughters, Dafna, 15, and Ella, 8. One other video confirmed the daddy being taken throughout the border into Gaza.

“Simply convey my daughters dwelling and to their household. All of the individuals,” Zin mentioned.

In Gaza, a tiny enclave of two.3 million individuals sealed off by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 16 years for the reason that Hamas takeover, residents feared additional escalation.

As of late Sunday, Israeli airstrikes had destroyed 159 housing items throughout Gaza and severely broken 1,210 others, the U.N. mentioned. The U.N. company for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, mentioned a college sheltering greater than 225 individuals took a direct hit. It didn’t say the place the fireplace got here from.

Within the Palestinian metropolis of Rafah in southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike early Monday killed 19 individuals, together with ladies and kids, mentioned Talat Barhoum, a physician on the native Al-Najjar Hospital. Barhoum mentioned plane hit the house of the Abu Hilal household, and that a type of killed was Rafaat Abu Hilal, a frontrunner of a neighborhood armed group. The strike prompted harm to surrounding properties.

Over the weekend, one other airstrike on a house in Rafah killed 19 members of the Abu Outa household, together with ladies and kids, once they had been huddling on the bottom ground within the southern Gaza metropolis of Rafah, survivors mentioned.

A number of Israeli media retailers, citing rescue service officers, mentioned not less than 700 individuals have been killed in Israel, together with 44 troopers. The Gaza Well being Ministry mentioned 413 individuals, together with 78 youngsters and 41 ladies, had been killed within the territory. Some 2,000 individuals have been wounded on either side. An Israeli official mentioned safety forces have killed 400 militants and captured dozens extra.

Over the weekend, the Israeli Safety Cupboard declared conflict and permitted “important army steps” in response to the Hamas assault. The steps weren’t outlined, however the declaration seems to offer the army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a large mandate.

In an announcement, Netanyahu’s workplace mentioned the goal would be the destruction of Hamas’ “army and governing capabilities” to an extent that stops it from threatening Israelis “for a few years.”

The declaration of conflict was largely symbolic, mentioned Yohanan Plesner, the top of the Israel Democracy Institute, a assume tank, but it surely “demonstrates that the federal government thinks we’re coming into a extra prolonged, intense and important interval of conflict.”

Israel has carried out main army campaigns over the previous 4 many years in Lebanon and Gaza that it portrayed as wars, however with out a formal declaration.

The presence of hostages in Gaza complicates Israel’s response. Israel has a historical past of creating closely lopsided exchanges to convey captive Israelis dwelling.

An Egyptian official mentioned Israel sought assist from Cairo to make sure the protection of the hostages. Egypt additionally spoke with each side a few potential cease-fire, however Israel was not open to a truce “at this stage,” in keeping with the official, who requested to not be recognized as a result of he was not approved to temporary media.

In northern Israel, a short alternate of strikes with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group fanned fears that the combating may increase right into a wider regional conflict. Hezbollah fired rockets and shells Sunday at Israeli positions in a disputed space alongside the border, and Israel fired again utilizing armed drones. The Israeli army mentioned the state of affairs was calm after the alternate.

Elsewhere, six Palestinians had been killed in clashes with Israeli troopers Sunday across the West Financial institution.

Over the previous 12 months, Israel’s far-right authorities has ramped up settlement development within the occupied West Financial institution. Israeli settler violence has displaced a whole bunch of Palestinians there, and tensions have flared across the Al-Aqsa mosque, a flashpoint Jerusalem holy website.


Adwan reported from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Related Press writers Isabel DeBre and Julia Frankel in Jerusalem; Wafaa Shurafa in Gaza Metropolis; Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Samy Magdy in Cairo; and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.

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