Israeli soldiers were still engaged in combat with militants holed up in several areas more than 40 hours after Hamas launched its extraordinary invasion out of Gaza.
More than 400 people have reportedly been killed in Gaza, while at least 700 people have reportedly been slain in Israel, a staggering death toll the nation has not seen in decades.
Health officials in Gaza report that an Israeli airstrike on the Jabalia refugee camp resulted in dozens of Palestinian deaths and injuries.
As the Israeli military worked through Monday to crush fighters lingering in southern towns and increased its shelling of the Gaza Strip, the government officially declared war and authorized “significant military steps” to respond against Hamas for its surprise offensive.
Over 1,100 people were killed and thousands more were injured on both sides. According to Israel’s defense minister, the Gaza Strip will be subject to a “total blockade” that forbids the entry of food and fuel.
More than 120,000 residents of the besieged Palestinian enclave have already been uprooted by the heavy bombing.
Two kibbutzim that militants had entered earlier in their operations were among the four Israeli sites that Israel claimed it tried to take control of from Hamas members using special forces. Israeli police have released video from one location where they can be seen kneeling in dense grass while firing at Hamas fighters across an open field.
The declaration of war foreshadowed more intense fighting to come, and one key concern was whether Israel would invade Gaza on the ground, a move that in the past has increased losses.
In Hamas and the more modest Islamic Jihad organization asserted to have captured more than 130 Israeli citizens and carried them into Gaza, where they were to be exchanged for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Although unsubstantiated, the announcement provided the first indication of the scale of the kidnappings.
“Only that the number of captives is significant,” said the Israeli military.
In retaliation, Israel has reportedly struck more than 800 sites in Gaza, including airstrikes that largely destroyed the village of Beit Hanoun in the northeastern corner of the territory.
“We will continue to attack in this way, with this force, continuously, on all gathering (places) and routes used by Hamas,” said Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in media reports.
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager
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