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  4. Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza kill over 200 as war escalates, Hamas kills 70 in rocket attacks

Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza kill over 200 as war escalates, Hamas kills 70 in rocket attacks

Dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border with Israel as part of 'Operation Al-Aqsa Storm'. The rocket attacks and the infiltration mark the deadliest attack by Hamas on Israel in years.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Updated on: October 08, 2023 6:14 IST
Smoke rising from a building in Israel after a rocket
Image Source : AP Smoke rising from a building in Israel after a rocket attack by Hamas

Retaliatory strikes by Israel on Gaza following a declaration of war by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu killed over 200 people and injured over 1,000 in Gaza on Saturday, BBC reported figures from Palestine's health ministry. The Israeli forces began striking targets in the Gaza Strip in response to surprise rocket strikes by the Hamas group.

Hamas fired over 3,000 rockets in an unprecedented attack on Israel on Saturday as part of 'Operation Al-Aqsa Storm'. Dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border with Israel in several locations by air, sea and land.

The rocket strikes have claimed at least 70 lives in Israel and more than 740 people were wounded, including dozens who are in critical condition. This marks the deadliest attack by the Hamas group, designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and other countries, on Israel in several years.

Israel has declared a state of national emergency as the military launched operation ‘Iron Swords’ in response to Hamas’s surprise attack – by air, land and sea – comprising a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and infiltration into its heavily fortified border in the southern area that caught the country off-guard.

There are at least seven sites where Israeli troops were battling the infiltrators, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters. Many Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) personnel, including special units, have been deployed to the area surrounding Gaza and are fighting in different centres to protect the residents of the south.

Situation in Israel

The leader of Hamas' military wing Mohammed Deif earlier said that the armed group has launched a new military operation titled 'Operation Al-Aqsa Storm' against Israel. "We've decided to say enough is enough," he said in a rare statement. He claimed that around 5,000 rockets were launched by the group toward Israel.

Videos of Hamas fighters parading what appeared to be stolen Israeli military vehicles through the streets and at least one dead Israeli soldier within Gaza being dragged and trampled by an angry crowd of Palestinians shouting “God is Great" surfaced on social media.

According to several reports, at least 53 Israelis have been taken hostage and soldiers, including Israel commander Nimrod Aloni have been kidnapped by Hamas fighters. The military declined to give details about casualties or kidnappings as it continued to battle the infiltrators.

Nepal's Ambassador to Israel Kanta Rijal said that seven Nepali students in Harzliya under the "Learn and Earn" program of the Israeli government have been injured and taken hostage in the ongoing situation.

"They have been held in captivity by Hamas forces along with an additional 10 Nepali students at the agricultural farm in Southern Israel's Alumim," Rijal told ANI.

In his first public statement since the escalation of hostilities, Netanyahu said that the nation is "at war" and will extract an unprecedented price from its enemy.

"We are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war. This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours," Netanyahu said in a televised address.

Netanyahu further said the first priority was to “cleanse the area” of enemy infiltrators, then to “exact a huge price from the enemy,” and to fortify other areas so that no other militant groups join the war.

The infiltration of fighters into southern Israel marked a major escalation by Hamas that forced millions of Israelis to hide in safe rooms and houses. Cities and towns emptied as the military closed roads near Gaza.

The escalation comes after weeks of heightened tensions along Israel’s volatile border with Gaza, and heavy fighting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

International community reacts

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he was deeply shocked by the terrorist attacks in Israel and offered prayers for innocent victims and their families. "Deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour," he tweeted.

“We stand firmly with the Government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks. The US unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism,” said Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told TASS news agency that Moscow is in contact with Israel, Palestine, and Arab countries and called on all parties involved in the conflict to cease fire. "This is a relapse of a 75-year-old conflict. Moscow is in contact with all parties, including the Arab states. We call for an immediate ceasefire and peace," he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Ukraine's foreign ministry also condemned the attacks and expressed solidarity with Israel. 

The rocket strike came after weeks of heightened tensions along Israel’s border with Gaza, and heavy fighting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In 2023, over 200 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank so far, while retaliatory attacks have claimed the lives of 30 Israeli people.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Israel mobilises reserve forces on large scale amid state of emergency after Hamas strike

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