Israel’s military said it had found the bodies of roughly 1,500 Hamas militants in Israeli territory as it gained effective control in the south and “restored full control” over the border. It was not immediately clear if those numbers overlapped with deaths previously reported by Palestinian authorities.
Spokesperson Richard Hecht said no Hamas fighters have crossed into Israel since last night, although infiltrations could still be possible.Israeli warplanes pounded downtown Gaza City, home to Hamas’ centers of government, with relentless bombardments into early Tuesday, after Israel’s prime minister vowed retaliation against the Islamic militant group that would “reverberate for generations.”
Israel said that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza are holding more than 150 soldiers and civilians snatched from inside Israel after the attack caught its vaunted military and intelligence apparatus completely off guard.As the Israeli military activated 300,000 reservists in a massive mobilization, a major question was whether it will launch a ground assault into the tiny Mediterranean coastal territory. The last ground assault was in 2014.
Thousands of Israelis were evacuated from more than a dozen towns near Gaza, and tanks and drones were deployed to guard breaches in the Gaza border fence against new incursions. In Gaza, tens of thousands fled their homes as airstrikes leveled buildings.
The 4-day-old war has already claimed at least 1,600 lives, as Israel saw gun battles in the streets of its own towns for the first time in decades and neighborhoods in Gaza were reduced to rubble. Hamas also escalated the conflict, pledging to kill captured Israelis if strikes targeted civilians without warning.
The moves, along with Israel’s formal declaration of war on Sunday, pointed to Israel increasingly shifting to the offensive against Hamas, threatening greater destruction in the densely populated, impoverished Gaza Strip.“We have only started striking Hamas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address. “What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations.”
The Israeli military said it struck hundreds of Hamas targets in Gaza’s City Rimal neighborhood, which is home to Hamas’ ministries and governing buildings, overnight.Hecht said Gazans were being told to evacuate “over social media” before strikes, but did not give details.
On Monday, Israel found more bodies from Hamas’ stunning weekend attack into southern Israeli towns. Rescue workers found 100 bodies in the tiny farming community of Be’eri — around 10% of its population — after a long hostage standoff with gunmen.The Israeli military said more than 900 people already have been killed in Israel. In Gaza and the West Bank, 704 people have been killed, according to authorities there; Israel says hundreds of Hamas fighters are among them. Thousands have been wounded on both sides.