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Hamas Attacks Israel, Hundreds Dead, Thousands Wounded | Citizen NewsNG

ByCitizen NewsNG

Oct 8, 2023

 

 

Bloodied bodies in the streets, gunmen raiding door-to-door and news of captives taken to Gaza left Israelis terrified and in shock after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack that was unprecedented in audacity and scale.

In an assault of startling breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip, including towns and other communities as far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border.

According to Reuters, in some places, they roamed for hours, gunning down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response.

In a televised address Saturday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier declared Israel to be at war, said the military will use all of its strength to destroy Hamas’ capabilities and “take revenge for this black day. But he warned, “This war will take time. It will be difficult.”

“All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from, we will turn them into ruins,” he added. “Get out of there now,” he told Gaza residents, who have no way to leave the tiny, overcrowded Mediterranean territory of 2.3 million people.

After nightfall, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza intensified, flattening several residential buildings in giant explosions, including a 14-story tower that held dozens of apartments as well as Hamas offices in central Gaza City. Israeli forces fired a warning just before, and there were no reports of casualties, AP News reports.

Soon after, a Hamas rocket barrage into central Israel hit four cities, including Tel Aviv and a nearby suburb, where two people were seriously injured. Throughout the day, Hamas fired more than 3,500 rockets, the Israeli military said.

In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, an Israeli airstrike late Saturday flattened a home, killing 12 members of the Abu Qouto family, neighbors said. Ten members of a family in the northern town of Jebalya were killed in another airstrike, relatives said. It was not known why the homes were targeted.

The strength, sophistication and timing of the Saturday morning attack shocked Israelis. Hamas fighters used explosives to break through the border fence enclosing Gaza, then crossed with motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders and speed boats on the coast without resistance from the military.

According to AP News, in some towns, a trail of civilians’ bodies lay where they had encountered the advancing gunmen. On the road outside the town of Sderot, a bloodied woman slumped dead in the seat of her car.

At least nine people gunned down at a bus shelter in the town were laid out on stretchers on the street, their bags still on the curb nearby.

One woman, screaming, embraced the body of a family member sprawled under a sheet next to a toppled motorcycle; as she was led away, she picked up the dead person’s helmet from the ground nearby.

A resident reported seeing multiple bodies and bullet-scarred vehicles in the southern Israeli town of Sderot where groups of Hamas gunmen were still fighting Israeli troops 12 hours after the attack was launched.

“I went out, I saw loads of bodies of terrorists, civilians, cars shot up. A sea of bodies, inside Sderot along the road, other places, loads of bodies,” said Shlomi from Sderot.

As night fell, at least 100 were reported dead and more than 1,000 wounded, according to Israeli media, with fighting still raging in more than 20 locations around the Gaza strip, according to reports.

Israeli media, citing rescue service officials, said at least 250 people were killed and 1,500 wounded, making it the deadliest attack in Israel in decades.

At least 232 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed and at least 1,700 wounded in Israeli strikes, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Hamas fighters took an unknown number of civilians and soldiers captive into Gaza, a deeply sensitive issue for Israel, in harrowing scenes posted on social media videos.

The assault, on the Jewish Sabbath and coinciding with the religious holiday of Simchat Torah, is unfolding as a major national trauma in a country proud of its strong military.

In one incident, young Israelis told of fleeing a dance party in the early hours of Saturday as Hamas gunmen backed by rocket barrages entered towns and villages by the border.

The rave party was attended by several hundred people near the Israeli kibbutz of Reim, witnesses said. Footage on social media showed dozens of people running through fields and along a road, escaping militants as gun shots were heard.

“The music stopped and there was a rocket siren,” a young woman called Ortal told Israel’s N12 News television. “Suddenly out of nowhere, they started shooting.”

Another party goer, Esther Borochov, said a car had rammed her vehicle as she tried to flee before a young man told her and her friend to jump into his vehicle before he was shot point blank while she played dead until she was rescued.

“I couldn’t move my legs,” she told Reuters at the hospital. “Soldiers came and took us away to the bushes.”

Israel’s ambulance service said its crews were unable to reach the wounded in towns where fighting was ongoing. An ambulance was also attacked, Magen David Adom medical service said, one crew member was killed, it said.

The assaults on Israeli civilians were the deadliest since the Palestinian suicide bombing campaigns of the Second Intifada that hit the country’s main cities some two decades ago.

Adding to the shock, Palestinian militant groups circulated footage on social media showing what they said were captured Israeli soldiers and civilians being driven into Gaza and hostages being held by more fighters inside Israel.

A Israeli TV stations carried telephone calls from terrified residents of towns and kibbutzes speaking even as gunmen were trying to break into their shelters.

A woman identified as Ella, barricaded in a bomb shelter for hours in Be’eri kibbutz, where there were reports of 50 Israelis held hostage by Hamas, spoke live with N12 News.

“We can hear a lot of gunfire, we were told that terrorists are in the dining hall, we can hear a lot of shooting,” she said. “I’ve lost contact with my family. I know my father has been kidnapped … no one is telling us what’s going on. I don’t know if my mother is alive.”

In amateur video, hundreds of terrified young people who had been dancing at a rave fled for their lives after Hamas militants entered the area and began firing at them. Israeli media said dozens of people were killed.

Associated Press photos showed an abducted elderly Israeli woman being brought back into Gaza on a golf cart by Hamas gunmen and another woman squeezed between two fighters on a motorcycle. Images also showed fighters parading captured Israeli military vehicles through Gaza streets.

Among the dead in Israel was Col. Jonathan Steinberg, a senior officer who commanded the military’s Nahal Brigade, a prominent infantry unit.

The shadowy leader of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, said the assault was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year, violence at Al Aqsa — the disputed Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount — increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinians and growth of settlements.

The Hamas incursion on Simchat Torah, a normally joyous day when Jews complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll, revived painful memories of the 1973 Mideast war practically 50 years to the day, in which Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, aiming to take back Israeli-occupied territories.

Comparisons to one of the most traumatic moments in Israeli history sharpened criticism of Netanyahu and his far-right allies, who had campaigned on more aggressive action against threats from Gaza.

Political commentators lambasted the government and military over its failure to anticipate what appeared to be a Hamas attack unseen in its level of planning and coordination.

Asked by reporters how Hamas had managed to catch the army off guard, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli army spokesman, replied, “That’s a good question.”

The conflict threatened to escalate to an even deadlier stage with Israel’s vows of greater retaliation.

In a counterattack, a stunned Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza, with its prime minister saying the country is now at war with Hamas and vowing to inflict an “unprecedented price.”

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