June 13, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Casualty intensifies as Israel officially launches strike against Hamas

The Nepal Weekly
October 10, 2023

The Israeli government officially declared war and gave the green signal for “significant military steps” to retaliate against Islamist group Hamas for its surprise attack, as the military labored into Monday to crush fighters still in southern towns of Israel and intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The death toll on both sides crossed 1,100 with thousands left wounded.

Around 40 hours after Hamas launched its unprecedented strike from Gaza, Israeli forces were still battling with militants holed up in several locations, according to different news agencies. At least 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel — a staggering toll on a scale the country has not experienced in decades — and more than 400 have been killed in Gaza.

Israel said it brought in special forces in a bid take control of four Israeli sites from Hamas fighters, including two kibbutzim that militants entered earlier in their attacks. Footage released by Israeli police from one area showed forces kneeling in tall grass as they exchanged fire with Hamas militants across an open field.

The declaration of war portended greater fighting ahead, and a major question was whether Israel would launch a ground assault into Gaza, a move that in the past has brought heavy casualties.

Meanwhile, Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group claimed to have taken captive more than 130 people from inside Israel and brought them into Gaza, saying they would be traded for the release of thousands of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. The announcement, though unconfirmed, was the first sign of the scope of abductions.

The captives are known to include soldiers and civilians, including women, children and older adults — mostly Israelis but also some people of other nationalities. The Israeli military said that significant number of people have been put under captivities.

The Israeli military estimated 1,000 Hamas fighters took part in Saturday’s initial incursion. The high figure underscored the extent of planning by the militant group ruling Gaza, which has said it launched the attack in response to mounting Palestinian suffering under Israel’s occupation and blockade of Gaza.

The gunmen rampaged for hours, gunning down civilians and snatching people in towns, along highways and at a techno music festival attended by thousands in the desert. The rescue service Zaka said it removed about 260 bodies from the festival, and that number was expected to rise.

In response, Israel hit more than 800 targets in Gaza so far, its military said, including airstrikes that leveled much of the town of Beit Hanoun in the enclave’s northeast corner.

Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters Hamas was using the town as a staging ground for attacks. There was no immediate comment on casualties, and most of the community’s population of tens of thousands likely fled before the incident.

“We will continue to attack in this way, with this force, continuously, on all gathering (places) and routes” used by Hamas, Hagari said. Civilians on both sides were already paying a high price. The Israeli military was evacuating at least five towns close to Gaza.

A line of people snaked outside a central Israel police station to supply DNA samples and other means that could help identify missing family members. Mayyan Zin, a divorced mother of two, said she learned that her two daughters had been abducted when a relative sent her photos from a Telegram group showing them sitting on mattresses in captivity. She then found online videos of a chilling scene in her ex-husband’s home in the town of Nahal Oz: Gunmen who had broken in speak to him, his leg bleeding, in the living room near the two terrified, weeping daughters, Dafna, 15, and Ella, 8. Another video showed the father being taken across the border into Gaza. “Just bring my daughters home and to their family. All the people,” Zin said.

In Gaza, a tiny enclave of 2.3 million people sealed off by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 16 years since the Hamas takeover, residents feared further worsening of the situation. Israeli strikes flattened some residential buildings.