Israel’s military ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip on Monday, stopping food, fuel and supplies from entering its 2.3 million people while attacking the Hamas-ruled territory with waves of airstrikes in retaliation for the bloody incursion of the militants at the weekend.
More than two days after Hamas launched its surprise attack from Gaza, the Israeli military said it had largely gained control of its southern cities, where it had been fighting Hamas gunmen.
Israel’s vaunted military and intelligence apparatus was taken completely by surprise by Hamas, resulting in intense fighting in its streets for the first time in decades. Tanks and drones were deployed to monitor gaps in the border fence to prevent further incursions. Thousands of Israelis were evacuated from more than a dozen cities near Gaza and the army called up 300,000 reservists, a massive mobilization in a short time.
The measures, along with Israel’s formal declaration of war on Sunday, indicated that Israel is increasingly shifting to the offensive against Hamas, threatening
Israel orders a complete siege of Gaza, to cut off electricity, food and fuel supplies and cause further destruction in the impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip. On Sunday, the strikes leveled much of the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun, which Israel said Hamas was using as a base of operations.
On Monday, the Israeli military sent messages to residents to evacuate Rimal, a residential and commercial district in central Gaza City where the offices of The Associated Press and other international media are located, a sign that heavy attacks were coming. .
A major question remains whether it will launch a ground attack on the small Mediterranean coastal territory, a move that has led to escalating casualties in the past. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy “the military and governance capabilities” of the militant group.
As Israel struck more than 1,000 targets in Gaza, Palestinian militants continued to fire volleys of rockets and activate air raid sirens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A video posted online appeared to show a plume of smoke near a terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport. There was no immediate information on casualties or damage from the latest bombing.
Civilians have already paid a high price. Around 700 people, including 73 soldiers, have died in Israel, according to Israeli media, citing rescue services, a staggering number considering the scale of its recent conflicts. Gaza’s Health Ministry said 493 people, including 78 children and 41 women, were killed in the territory. Thousands of people have been injured on both sides.
Palestinian militant groups claimed to be holding more than 130 people kidnapped in Israel and dragged to Gaza. The armed wing of Hamas claimed on its Telegram channel that four of them were killed in Israeli airstrikes. This could not be independently confirmed.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “total siege” of Gaza, saying authorities would cut off electricity and block the entry of food and fuel. Gallant said Israel was at war with “human animals,” using the kind of dehumanizing language often used by both sides in times of rising tensions.
Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza of varying severity since Hamas took power in 2007. In recent years, Israel has provided limited electricity and allowed the import of food, fuel and some consumer goods, while restricting heavily inbound and outbound trips. The Israeli seal will make Gaza almost entirely dependent on its crossing into neighboring Egypt at Rafah, where carrying capacity is lower than other crossings into Israel.
An Egyptian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said more than 2 tons of medical supplies from the Egyptian Red Crescent had been sent to Gaza and that efforts were underway to organize food and other deliveries, but that there had yet to be any. resolved the issue of allowing fuel entry. decided.
Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters that Israeli strikes were moving from district to district to destroy homes and buildings that Israel says are being used by Hamas. Israel plans to strike thousands of targets, he said. He said “hundreds” of Hamas militants were buried under the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israel in the past 48 hours. His claims about the numbers – and his characterization of the dead as Hamas – could not be confirmed.
In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, an Israeli airstrike early Monday killed 19 people, including women and children, said Talat Barhoum, a doctor at the local Al-Najjar hospital. Barhoum said a plane hit the Abu Hilal family home and that one of the dead was Rafaat Abu Hilal, the leader of a local armed group. The strike caused damage to surrounding homes.
Over the weekend, another airstrike on a house in Rafah killed 19 members of the Abu Quta family, including women and children, and five neighbors, said survivor Nasser Abu Quta, adding that there were no militants in the house. familiar. The UN said more than 123,000 people have fled their homes in Gaza, many of them after Israeli warnings of an imminent bombardment. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said a school housing more than 225 people suffered a direct hit. He did not say where the fire came from.
Meanwhile, after about 48 hours of pitched battles, Hagari said the army is “in control” of its border communities in southern Israel. Despite some isolated incidents early Monday morning, “at this time there is no fighting in the communities.” He said 15 of 24 border communities have been evacuated and the rest are expected to be evacuated next day.
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Earlier, Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif al-Qanoua told The Associated Press by phone that the group’s fighters were continuing to fight outside Gaza and had captured more Israelis on Monday morning. He said the group aims to free all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which in the past has accepted unequal exchange deals in which it released large numbers of prisoners for individual captives or even soldiers’ remains.
Among the captives are soldiers and civilians, including women, children and older adults, mostly Israelis but also some people of other nationalities. Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said Monday that Egyptian officials are trying to mediate the release of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons in exchange for Israeli women captured by militants.
Mayyan Zin, a divorced mother of two, said she learned that her two daughters had been kidnapped when a relative sent her photos from a Telegram group showing them sitting on mattresses in captivity. She then found videos online of a chilling scene at her ex-husband’s home: armed men who had broken in spoke to her near the two crying daughters, Dafna, 15, and Ella, 8. Another video showed the father being carried away. to Gaza. “Just bring my daughters home and their family. All the people,” Zin said.