Israeli forces battled hundreds of Palestinian militiamen who entered their territory on Sunday, October 8, and continued shelling the Gaza Strip after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “long and difficult” war against the Islamist movement Hamas, which surprised Israel with a major offensive on Saturday.
The offensive launched by land, sea, and air by the Islamist movement that controls Gaza has so far left more than 200 dead, including 26 soldiers, and more than 1,000 wounded on Israeli soil, according to the army, which accused Hamas of massacring civilians in their own homes.
In Gaza, 313 Palestinians were killed and nearly 2,000 wounded in Israeli attacks launched in response, Hamas said in a new report.
At the same time, many Israelis, both civilian and military, remain hostages to Palestinian fighters. The Israeli army did not specify how many were there, although the digital information portal Ynet mentioned a hundred, including women, children, and the elderly.
“The first stage has now ended with the destruction of most of the enemy forces that have penetrated our territory,” Netanyahu declared.
The right-wing leader warned his fellow citizens that they were starting “a long and difficult battle.”
“We are finishing recovering full control of Israeli territory,” said Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, spokesman for the Israeli army, after he reported “hundreds” of infiltrators still in towns in southern Israel bordering Gaza.
The army announced on Sunday that they will evacuate all residents living near the Palestinian enclave in the next 24 hours. Tens of thousands of soldiers were sent to “free the hostages” and “kill every terrorist in Israel,” added military spokesman Daniel Hagari.
The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting this Sunday on the situation in the Middle East, called by Brazil, which holds the presidency of the organization this month.
The attack by Hamas was condemned by many countries in Europe and Latin America.
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, expressed his “unwavering support” for Israel.
Pope Francis asked the Vatican “that the attacks stop,” because “terrorism and war do not lead to any solution, only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people.”
Among the dead was an Argentine, Rodolfo Fabián Skariszewski, who lived in Moshav Ohad, a spokesman for the Argentine Foreign Ministry confirmed to AFP.
In search of relatives
Coinciding with the end of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Hamas fighters began their offensive with thousands of rockets fired at Israel and managed to enter with cars, boats, and even motorized paragliders.
The militants reached cities like Ashkelon, Sderot, and Ofakim, 22 kilometers from Gaza, and attacked military and civilian positions in the middle of the road.
“I saw a lot of dead bodies,” Shlomi, an Israeli, told AFP on a road near the Gevim kibbutz in southern Israel.
The attackers attacked a rave party attended by hundreds of young Israelis near the Reim kibbutz, not far from Gaza, where an unknown number of people died, according to the local press.
AFP reporters saw the bodies of civilians shot in the streets of at least three Israeli towns: Sderot, the Gevim kibbutz, and Zikim Beach, north of Gaza.
Israeli forces responded by aerial bombardment of several targets in Gaza, including several buildings it presented as Hamas “command centers”.
The army said it hit 426 Hamas targets, including tunnels used to smuggle materials into Gaza, buildings, and other infrastructure.
Interviews with citizens in search of missing relatives took place on Israeli radio and television this Sunday. Others said they saw them in videos circulating on social networks, showing people kidnapped by Hamas in Gaza.
“What happened is unprecedented in Israel,” Netanyahu acknowledged, in what was the biggest attack in decades, 50 years after the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
In the north, from Lebanon, the pro-Iran Shiite movement Hezbollah attacked three Israeli positions in a disputed border area with projectiles, in “solidarity,” it said, with the offensive of Hamas.
The Israeli army responded by attacking southern Lebanon.
In another incident in Alexandria, on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, a policeman shot a group of Israeli tourists and killed two of them, as well as their Egyptian guide, a local channel, and the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Netanyahu announced the suspension of the supply of electricity, food, and other goods from Israel to Gaza, a poor and overpopulated coastal strip that has been under a strict Israeli blockade for more than 15 years.
The Hamas offensive was launched when Israel and Saudi Arabia, under the mediation of Washington, negotiated the establishment of bilateral relations.
A method condemned by Hamas and its ally Iran, which, by the way, congratulated the Palestinian Islamists for their sudden offensive against Israel.