In a worrying turn of events, Israeli soldiers have engaged in intense battles against Hamas militants, raising concerns of a potential broader regional conflict. This comes just a day after an unprecedented surprise attack on southern Israel by Palestinian militants.
The surprise attack from Gaza, which occurred over 24 hours ago, witnessed Hamas fighters, supported by a barrage of thousands of rockets, breaching Israel’s security barrier and causing havoc in nearby communities. The toll from the ongoing conflict is grim, with at least 600 people reported killed in Israel since the attack’s commencement. In Gaza, more than 300 have lost their lives as Israel retaliated with airstrikes.
Notably, militants have taken captives, including women and children, back into Gaza. Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau, mentioned that the captives would be used to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has responded with airstrikes that have resulted in the leveling of buildings in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the country is “at war.”
Concerns of the conflict spreading to other fronts escalated as Lebanon-based Hezbollah claimed responsibility for strikes on Israeli positions along the border with Syria’s Golan Heights, a disputed area. In response, Israel conducted armed drone strikes on Hezbollah targets in the same region, where the borders of Israel, Lebanon, and Syria converge.
This development on Israel’s northern border raises the possibility of involving a formidable adversary, Hezbollah, backed by Iran and believed to possess tens of thousands of rockets.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military official, indicated that the situation at the northern border had calmed after the exchange. However, fighting still raged in the south, and hostage situations persisted.
Israeli forces had moved into every community near the Gaza border, with plans to evacuate all civilians and search for remaining militants. Hagari asserted, “We will go through every community until we kill every terrorist that is in Israeli territory.” He also warned that the escalation would continue in the coming hours.
Hamas militants had infiltrated as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip early on Saturday, taking hostages while launching thousands of rockets at Israeli cities. As of Sunday, the Israeli military reported that its forces were battling Hamas incursions in eight locations. While two hostage situations in Gaza were said to be “resolved,” the fate of all the hostages remained uncertain.
Israel’s response in Gaza included striking 426 targets, including residential buildings, often causing massive explosions. The toll on the Gaza Strip is devastating, with at least 313 people killed, including 20 children, and nearly 2,000 wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Additionally, seven people were killed by Israeli army fire in the West Bank, including a child.