In a grave escalation, Israeli forces launched a sustained barrage of airstrikes into the densely populated Gaza Strip on Monday, targeting Hamas strongholds, as confirmed by Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson, Jonathan Conricus. These strikes endured for a relentless ten hours, a strategic move aimed at preventing further harm to Israeli civilians from potential Hamas strikes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a resolute address to the nation, emphasized that this military operation was merely in its initial stages. “Our efforts against Hamas have just begun,” he asserted. “The actions we take in the days ahead will resonate through generations.”
As the Israeli response intensified, Hamas issued a stark warning, vowing to harm hostages if Israeli strikes hit homes housing women, children, and elderly leaders in Gaza without prior notice. The Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, declared their intent to carry out a civilian hostage execution in response to every unannounced home bombing, promising to release visual and audio evidence of each act.
This unprecedented surge of violence has inflicted a heavy toll on both Palestinians and Israelis, sparked by a brazen Hamas assault on Saturday. Gunmen from the group infiltrated Israel through land, sea, and air, committing acts of violence within homes, claiming civilian lives, and taking hostages of various ages. An event near the Gaza border was also targeted.
Conricus termed it “the darkest day in Israeli history by far.” The casualties reported from these assaults have risen to 700 deceased and 2,300 injured, primarily civilians. Israeli sources later reported the death toll in Israel to be 900.
In retaliation for Hamas’ attack, Israel has focused its efforts on the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, a significant portion being refugees. Conricus announced that Israeli forces have successfully regained control of the southern territories held by Palestinian gunmen, three days after the initial aggression from Hamas. Additionally, 300,000 reservists have been mobilized across southern and northern Israel.
According to Gaza’s Health Ministry officials, the toll from Israeli strikes stands at over 680 fatalities and over 3,700 wounded. Tragically, nine U.S. citizens have also lost their lives. The State Department, along with the National Security Council, confirmed this distressing news, though there are still unaccounted-for U.S. citizens, with efforts underway to locate them.
Families anxiously await news of their loved ones, particularly concerning the fate of hostages. In the aftermath of the assault on the gathering near the Gaza border, fears persist that approximately 260 individuals may have lost their lives. Among those missing is Adi, the 21-year-old daughter of Ahuva Maisel, whose fate remains uncertain. Distraught and anxious, Maisel has received calls claiming to be from Hamas, heightening her distress.
The situation has taken a dire turn as Israel enforces a complete siege on Gaza, affecting fuel, electricity, and food supplies. Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, declared, “We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly.” Eman Abou Saeid, a Gaza resident, expressed a sense of resignation in the face of such adversity, highlighting the longstanding challenges faced by Gazans.
Hamas alleges that Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the deaths of four hostages and their captors from its military wing. However, these claims remain unverified. The group released an image of one of the purported hostages, a 19-year-old Israeli, identified by name, alive at the time of the photograph.
António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, condemned the attacks by Hamas while also criticizing the ongoing Israeli airstrikes and plans for a complete siege on Gaza. The situation in Gaza has become increasingly critical due to a 16-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, leaving most residents trapped within the coastal enclave.
Guterres emphasized the urgent need for humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, food, and fuel, along with access for aid workers. He decried the recent strikes on UNRWA schools sheltering displaced families, underlining the need to end this cycle of violence.
Tensions surged in Lebanon as well, with Israeli forces reporting the elimination of militants attempting to infiltrate from the northern border. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wing claimed responsibility for this endeavor. South Lebanon witnessed an exodus of civilians towards Beirut, necessitating the closure of schools and mobilizing ambulances to the area.