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A day after a surprise attack on Israel that saw Hamas militants taking over some southern Israeli towns, Israel declared war, dropped bombs on Gaza and tried to regain control of its territory with fierce fighting near the border areas, with over 1,100 people killed in the conflagration, the Wall Street Journal reported.
On Saturday, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel in a coordinated assault involving more than 1,000 fighters that stunned the Jewish nation, Voice of America reported. Militants breached the Israeli/ Gaza Strip security barrier using ground vehicles, motorized paragliders and boats, penetrating at least four military bases and attacking a number of towns.
Hamas officials said they had sent more men and arms across the border Sunday, while continuing to launch missiles. Meanwhile, another Iran-backed militant group, Hezbollah, fired mortar shells and missiles at Israeli targets from southern Lebanon.
Israel, over the weekend, retaliated and by Monday had struck over 1,000 targets in Gaza, its military said. Israel also cut off electricity to the territory and said it would no longer supply power, fuel or other goods there.
So far, more than 700 Israelis, mostly civilians, have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded, a toll that Israel hasn’t experienced in decades. Approximately 260 bodies were found in the aftermath of the attack on the Tribe of Nova outdoor music festival near the Israel/ Gaza border, according to the Associated Press.
On the Palestinian side, at least 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in Israeli counterstrikes on Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world with 2.3 million people, the AP reported.
Thousands of rockets fell on Israeli cities over the weekend, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Although Israel’s Iron Dome defense system stopped many, some got through, hitting a number of buildings.
On Sunday, the Israeli government evacuated civilians from areas near Gaza, treated hundreds of wounded civilians, recovered the bodies of the dead and tried to ascertain how many Israelis were being held hostage by militants, some of whom had been moved to Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would face difficult days ahead, but that Hamas “will pay an unprecedented price. This war will take time. It will be difficult … (but) we will win.”
Hamas and Israel have been engaged in on-and-off confrontations for years but the recent attack caught Israel off guard, said analysts, who added that the militant group struck as a political crisis over a judicial overhaul continues to consume the country.
The leader of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, said the assault, named Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, the Israeli occupation and a series of recent incidents, which included settlement expansion and increasing tensions over the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the AP said.
Analysts said the declaration of war announced by Israel’s Security Cabinet was largely symbolic: Still, Yohanan Plesner, the head of the Israel Democracy Institute, a local think tank, told the AP it “demonstrates that the government thinks we are entering a more lengthy, intense and significant period of war.”
Analysts added that the new war threatens to disrupt US-brokered talks to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.