The world was outraged by the jihadist militants’ violent assault into Israeli border communities, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday to “demolish Hamas” as his force prepared to enter the Gaza Strip in search of them.
More over 2 million people live in Gaza, with roughly half of them living in Gaza City. Israel has ordered residents to leave to the south, and hundreds of thousands have already done so.
Inside besieged Gaza, where conditions are deteriorating and deaths from Israeli air strikes rising, civilians said they were not safe anywhere. Militant group Hamas, which runs Gaza, has told them to ignore Israel’s message to move south.
Conditions are so atrocious that Palestinian health workers are storing bodies in ice cream freezer trucks because moving them to hospitals is too risky and cemeteries are full.
With fears of the conflict spilling over, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued his rapid tour of Middle East states, seeking to prevent escalation and secure the release of 126 hostages Israel says were taken by Hamas back into Gaza.
Arab leaders stressed the need to protect Gaza civilians.
“The reaction went beyond the right to self-defence, turning into collective punishment,” said Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
Renewed clashes on Israel’s border with Lebanon on Sunday underscored the dangers of regional spillover.
Hamas’ armed wing Al Qassam Brigades said it fired 20 rockets from Lebanon on two Israeli settlements while Lebanon’s Iran-backed group Hezbollah said it targeted barracks in Israel’s Hanita with missiles and had inflicted casualties.
Israel said it was striking Lebanon in retaliation.
Netanyahu convened Israel’s expanded emergency cabinet, including former opposition lawmakers, in a show of unity. “Hamas thought we would be demolished. It is we who will demolish Hamas,” he said.
Israel is carrying out the most intense bombardment Gaza has ever seen in response to the killing of 1,300 people when Hamas fighters rampaged through Israeli towns on Oct. 7. They shot men, women, children and soldiers and seized hostages in the worst attack on civilians in Israel’s history.
Graphic video of the attacks, and reports from medical and emergency services of atrocities in the overrun towns and kibbutzes, deepened Israelis’ sense of shock.