Israel stepped up its heavy airstrikes on Gaza last night – with its forces vowing to ‘hunt down and eliminate’ Hamas.
Several top officials of the terrorist group and about 1,500 armed men have already been killed.
The offensive accelerated after the Israeli army finally regained control of its borders yesterday – 72 hours after gunmen bulldozed through barriers and launched Saturday’s bloody massacre.
More than 300,000 reservists, tanks and military vehicles were mobilized ahead of a widely expected ground invasion.
Thousands of guns, helmets and jackets were distributed to Israeli civilians in border communities, while hospitals were put on standby for all-out war.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said last night in a speech to soldiers at the Gaza fence: ‘Hamas wanted change and it will get it. What was in Gaza will be no more. We started the offensive from the air, later we will also come from the ground. We are on the offensive. It will only intensify.” He spoke as:
More than 300,000 reservists, tanks and military vehicles were mobilized ahead of a widely expected ground invasion. Pictured: Explosions in the skies over Gaza City last night
Buildings damaged and destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would meet with opposition leaders to discuss a unity government;
- Reservists called up for active duty swelled the IDF’s ranks to more than 600,000;
- The extent of Hamas’s brutality was exposed by claims that women and babies had been beheaded;
- The Home Secretary wrote to the chief commissioners insisting that pro-Palestinian slogans could constitute a hate crime;
- President Joe Biden confirmed that fourteen US citizens had been killed and at least twenty taken hostage;
- The FA continued to drag its feet over lighting Wembley Arch to show support for the victims of Hamas’s atrocity;
- The Council of Deputies of British Jews wrote to the Culture Secretary to complain about the BBC’s reporting of the attacks.
- There were fears of escalation last night after the Israeli army said a number of shells had been fired from Syrian territory. The Syrian government made no comment.
Blockaded Gaza has already been under “total siege” and ravaged by strikes since Hamas killed 900 people and kidnapped 150 four days ago.
Plumes of smoke and flames continued to rise across the skyline yesterday, while the bombardment has left many roads impassable to emergency services.
Smoke rises from a boat after an Israeli attack on the port of Gaza City
Smoke rises above buildings as Israeli airstrikes continue in Gaza City’s Al-Rimal neighborhood
Gaza officials say at least 830 Palestinians have been killed, while entire districts in the densely populated enclave have been razed and food, power and water cut off. The bombing comes despite a threat from Hamas that it would execute a prisoner whenever a Palestinian home is hit without warning.
Israel says it has killed more than 1,500 militants in fighting along the border since Saturday.
In retaliation, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza into the port of Ashkelon after warning residents there to leave before 5 p.m. local time. Israeli Iron Dome missiles were launched to intercept the rockets.
Rockets were also fired from southern Lebanon. The IDF said it responded with artillery fire.
Israel has vowed to take “mighty revenge” on Hamas and warned the militants that they had “nowhere to hide” as airstrikes hit more than 1,500 targets. The attacks reportedly killed two senior Hamas officials: Jawad Abu Shammala and Zakaria Abu Maamar in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. IDF spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said troops now have “full control” of Israeli communities around Gaza and are on “high alert” near the northern border.
“We will reach them everywhere,” he warned. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, another IDF spokesman, told the Mail: “We have gathered more than 300,000 reserve soldiers… and as soon as the tactical timing is right, they will start implementing the goal that the Israeli government has defined, namely stripping Hamas of all of its military capabilities.”
He said the military was “actively trying to identify and eliminate the Hamas gunmen behind Saturday’s atrocities.” He added: “We are hitting Hamas with an intensity we have never done before.
President Joe Biden confirmed last night that fourteen American citizens had been killed and at least twenty taken hostage
The photo shows missiles being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense missile system
“We are also hunting senior Hamas operatives, so-called commanders, in their homes, hideouts, underground, wherever they are.” IDF phone messages have warned Palestinians to flee, signaling an impending attack on the densely populated Gaza Strip. But most Gazans cannot leave the besieged and blockaded enclave.
The UN said Israeli airstrikes had hit homes, schools and UN buildings. Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 830 civilians – including seven journalists – had been killed and 4,000 injured by the airstrikes since Saturday.
More than 180,000 people were left homeless, with many seeking shelter on the streets or in schools. The mortuary at Khan Younis Hospital in Gaza is said to be overcrowded and with gas and electricity supplies cut, hospitals have had to ration generators and conserve electricity for operating rooms.
Professor Ghasson Abu Sitta, a surgeon, said children made up a “large percentage” of the injured.
Biden condemned Hamas last night, describing its attack as “an act of pure evil.” He added: “Unfortunately for the Jewish people, it is not new. It has brought back painful memories of the anti-Semitism of the past century.
‘Let there be no doubt about it. The United States stands with Israel. We will ensure that the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can defend itself, as we have always done.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel this week to show American support.