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Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a large-scale shock assault in opposition to Israel on Saturday, firing 1000’s of rockets from Gaza and sending fighters to kill or abduct folks as Israel retaliated with devastating air strikes.

At the least 70 folks had been reported killed in Israel, whereas Gaza authorities launched a dying toll of 198 within the battle’s bloodiest escalation in years, which additionally left tons of extra wounded on each side.

“We’re at battle,” mentioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because the navy launched a sequence of strikes in opposition to targets within the blockaded coastal enclave, together with a number of residential tower blocks that had been utterly destroyed.

“The enemy pays an unprecedented value,” the veteran Israeli premier vowed after Hamas launched its first such mixed air, sea, and floor offensive, half a century after the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli battle.

Hamas has launched photos of a number of Israelis taken captive, and Israel military spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed that “there are kidnapped troopers and civilians. I can’t give figures about them in the meanwhile. It’s a battle crime dedicated by Hamas and they’ll pay the worth.”

The Islamist group began the assault round 6:30 am (0330 GMT) with 1000’s of rockets aimed so far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, some bypassing the Iron Dome protection system and hitting buildings.

Hamas fighters — touring in automobiles, boats, and even utilizing motorized paragliders — breached Gaza’s safety barrier and attacked close by Israeli cities and navy posts, opening fireplace on residents and passersby.

Our bodies had been seen mendacity on the streets of the city of Sderot close to Gaza.

“Ship assist, please!” one Israeli girl sheltering along with her two-year-old youngster pleaded as militants exterior opened fireplace at her home and tried to interrupt into their secure room, Israeli media reported.

AFP journalists witnessed armed Palestinians gathered round a burning Israeli tank and others driving a seized Israeli Humvee navy car again into Gaza.

‘Gates of Hell’

Israeli military Main Normal Ghasan Alyan warned Hamas had “opened the gates of hell.”

The military mentioned its forces had been engaged in reside gun battles in a number of places close to the Gaza Strip, in an operation labeled “Swords of Iron.”

An AFP journalist in Gaza noticed smoke billowing from the stays of a residential tower following Israeli strikes, which Gaza’s inside ministry mentioned contained 100 flats and was utterly destroyed.

Israel’s navy mentioned it had warned residents to evacuate earlier than concentrating on two multistorey buildings utilized by Hamas.

The help group Medical doctors With out Borders mentioned one strike had hit the enclave’s Indonesian hospital and an ambulance exterior Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza, inflicting a number of deaths.

The escalation follows months of rising violence, largely within the occupied West Financial institution, and tensions round Gaza’s border and at contested holy websites in Jerusalem.

Hamas labeled its assault “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” and referred to as on “resistance fighters within the West Financial institution” in addition to in “Arab and Islamic nations” to affix the battle.

“We determined to place an finish to all of the crimes of the occupation (Israel),” mentioned its armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claiming to have fired greater than 5,000 rockets.

Military spokesman Richard Hecht mentioned Israel had counted at the very least 2,200 rockets aimed toward its territory.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh claimed the group was on the “verge of an amazing victory and a transparent conquest on the Gaza entrance.”

“Sufficient is sufficient,” he mentioned in a televised tackle. “The cycle of intifadas (uprisings) and revolutions within the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons have to be accomplished.”

Our bodies within the Streets

Air raid sirens wailed throughout southern and central Israel, in addition to in Jerusalem, the place a number of incoming rockets had been intercepted by air protection methods.

In Tel Aviv, an AFP photographer noticed a gaping gap in a constructing, with residents boarding a bus to hunt security in a lodge.

Rocket impacts left automobiles burning beneath residential buildings within the Israeli metropolis of Ashkelon, north of Gaza.

Among the many useless was the president of a regional council for Israeli communities northeast of Gaza, who the council mentioned was killed in a gun battle with attackers.

Colleges will stay closed on Sunday, the beginning of the week in Israel.

The battle sparked main disruption at Tel Aviv airport, with American Airways, Emirates, and Ryanair amongst carriers with canceled flights.

‘Harmful Precipice’

Hamas took management of Gaza in 2007, resulting in Israel’s crippling blockade of the impoverished enclave of two.3 million folks.

Israel and Hamas have since fought a number of wars. The final main navy alternate, in Could, killed 34 Palestinians and one Israeli.

In northern Gaza on Saturday, tons of of individuals fled their houses, carrying meals and blankets, an AFP correspondent mentioned.

At Gaza Metropolis’s Al-Shifa hospital, an AFP journalist noticed eight our bodies within the morgue, whereas one other reporter witnessed the funeral of a ninth individual killed in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Within the West Financial institution, two Palestinians had been killed, in Ramallah and Jericho, and round 50 wounded in clashes with Israeli forces and settlers, the Palestinian well being ministry and Purple Crescent Society mentioned.

In Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, some Palestinian residents cheered and blew their automotive horns as sirens blared.

Western capitals condemned the assaults by Hamas, which the European Union, United States and Israel take into account a terrorist group.

UN Safety Council chair Brazil mentioned it might name an emergency assembly.

However Hamas drew help from different foes of Israel, with Iran’s supreme chief declaring he was “proud” of the Hamas motion.

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which fought a battle in opposition to Israel in 2006, hailed the “heroic operation.”

US President Joe Biden was briefed on the “appalling Hamas terrorist assaults,” mentioned the White Home, stressing that Washington would guarantee Israel has the means to defend itself.

European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen referred to as the assault “terrorism in its most despicable kind.”

UN Center East peace envoy Tor Wennesland mentioned the assault had led to “a harmful precipice” and referred to as for all sides to “pull again from the brink.”

Earlier than Saturday’s violence, at the very least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis, and two foreigners had been killed this 12 months, together with combatants and civilians on each side, based on Israeli and Palestinian officers.