Israel in full control of Gaza border towns attacked by Hamas

Israeli army soldiers are positioned with their Merkava tanks near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 9, 2023. PHOTO/AFP

Israeli troops have reasserted control over all towns bordering the Gaza Strip which were attacked by Hamas terrorists over the weekend, a spokesperson for Israel’s military said Monday.

Military spokesman Daniel Hagari stated, “We are in control of the communities,” while cautioning that isolated Palestinian “terrorists” might still be present in the area where Israel had deployed tens of thousands of troops and heavy armor.

Israel, grieving from the unprecedented assault on its territory, has reported over 700 casualties and launched a relentless series of airstrikes on Gaza, resulting in a death toll of 493, according to Palestinian authorities.

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Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced that Israel would impose a “complete siege” on the long-blockaded enclave, which would entail severe consequences for its 2.3 million inhabitants, including a lack of electricity, food, water, and gas.

Despite the thick plumes of smoke blanketing Gaza’s skies and the continued roar of fighter jets, Hamas persisted in firing rockets as far as Jerusalem, where air raid sirens wailed and explosions rang out.

In the densely populated coastal region of Gaza, Palestinians braced themselves for what many feared would be an Israeli ground offensive aimed at defeating Hamas and rescuing around 100 hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Gaza civilians to vacate all Hamas sites, which he has vowed to reduce to rubble.

The situation in the Middle East has escalated further, with Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah expressing support for Hamas. However, on Monday, Tehran denied any involvement in the military operation.

Hamas has called on “resistance fighters” in the occupied West Bank, as well as in Arab and Islamic nations, to join its “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” initiated half a century after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

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The United States has pledged unwavering support for Israel, announcing plans to send munitions and military equipment to its key ally while redirecting an aircraft carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean.

Alarm and Disgust

Israel, traditionally known for its high-tech military and intelligence prowess in previous conflicts, has been deeply rattled by Hamas’s unprecedented attack by land, air, and sea on the Jewish Sabbath. Now, it faces the threat of a multi-front war after Hezbollah launched missiles and artillery shells from the north, in what some see as a warning.

Israel expressed shock and revulsion after more than 1,000 militants breached the border fence that Israel had considered impregnable, infiltrating nearby Jewish communities. There, gunmen went door-to-door, targeting civilians or abducting them back into Gaza, as frightened residents hid or resisted.

Among those taken into Gaza as hostages were children and a Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair, according to Israeli officials. Up to 250 bodies were found at the scene of a music festival in a Negev desert kibbutz, primarily young people, with other festivalgoers feared to be among the abducted hostages.

“They butchered people in cold blood in an inconceivable way,” said Moti Bukjin, a spokesperson for the Zaka volunteer group involved in collecting the bodies.

Israelis expressed frustration at the intelligence lapse that blindsided the nation but put aside recent political divisions as they prepared for what Netanyahu warned would be a “long and challenging war.”

‘Worst in Israeli History’

“Never before have so many Israelis been killed by a single entity in a single day,” remarked army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. The multi-pronged attack represented “by far the worst day in Israeli history,” he added, likening it to a combination of the 9/11 and Pearl Harbor attacks.

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Retaliatory airstrikes and drone strikes on Gaza continued early Monday, according to AFP correspondents.

“Overnight, IDF fighter jets, helicopters, aircraft, and artillery targeted over 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist sites in the Gaza Strip,” stated a release from the Israeli Defense Forces.

Inside Gaza, the situation was dire. The territory has been blockaded by Israel for the past 15 years since Hamas took control, resulting in multiple wars with Israel. Air raids have destroyed residential buildings, mosques, and the central bank, displacing more than 120,000 people, as reported by the United Nations.

“The psychological and economic toll is unbearable,” said Amal al-Sarsawi, 37, while taking shelter in a school classroom with her frightened children.

Global Shockwaves

Many Gaza residents expressed resilience. Mohammed Saq Allah, 23, declared, “We will not give up, and we are here to stay. This is our land, and we will not abandon it.”

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians rallied in solidarity and clashed with Israeli security forces, resulting in 15 Palestinian deaths since Saturday.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have taken place in various countries, including Iraq, Pakistan, and the United States, while Germany and France have heightened security around Jewish temples and schools.

The escalating conflict has sent shockwaves around the world, raising concerns of a broader escalation and leading to a surge in oil prices.

Western capitals have condemned the Hamas attack, with both the United States and European Union designating Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Foreign or dual nationals have been reported killed, abducted, or missing, representing countries including Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Nepal, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United States.

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In Egypt’s Alexandria, a police officer indiscriminately opened fire on Israeli tourists on Sunday, killing two tourists and their Egyptian guide before being apprehended.

Israel, which has secured a series of US-brokered normalization agreements with several Arab nations in recent years, has issued travel warnings for its citizens, especially in the Middle East.

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