Israel Pounds Gaza with Fiercest Air Strikes Ever after Shock Hamas Attack

Palestinians walk among the rubble in the destroyed Al Rimal neighborhood following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 10 October 2023. (EPA)
Palestinians walk among the rubble in the destroyed Al Rimal neighborhood following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 10 October 2023. (EPA)
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Israel Pounds Gaza with Fiercest Air Strikes Ever after Shock Hamas Attack

Palestinians walk among the rubble in the destroyed Al Rimal neighborhood following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 10 October 2023. (EPA)
Palestinians walk among the rubble in the destroyed Al Rimal neighborhood following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 10 October 2023. (EPA)

Israel hammered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday with the fiercest air strikes in its 75-year conflict with the Palestinians, razing entire districts despite a threat from Hamas fighters to execute a captive for each home hit.

Across the barrier wall enclosing the coastal enclave, Israeli soldiers collected the last of the dead four days after Hamas gunmen rampaged through towns in the deadliest attack in Israel's history.

Israel has vowed to take "mighty revenge", calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists and placing Gaza, crowded home to 2.3 million people, under total siege.

Israel's embassy in Washington said the death toll from the weekend Hamas attacks had surpassed 1,000, dwarfing all modern extremist attacks on the West except for 9/11.

The victims were overwhelmingly civilians, gunned down in homes, on streets or at an outdoor dance party. Scores of Israelis and some foreigners were captured and taken to Gaza as hostages, some paraded through the streets.

Gaza's health ministry said Israel's retaliatory air strikes had killed at least 830 people and wounded 4,250. The strikes intensified on Tuesday night, shaking the ground and sending more columns of smoke and flames into the sky.

The United Nations said more than 180,000 Gazans had been made homeless, many huddling on streets or in schools.

At the morgue in Gaza's Khan Younis hospital, bodies were laid on the ground on stretchers with names written on their bellies. Medics called for relatives to pick up bodies quickly because there was no more space for the dead.

A municipal building was hit while being used as an emergency shelter. Survivors there spoke of many dead.

"No place is safe in Gaza, as you see they hit everywhere," said Ala Abu Tair, 35, who had sought shelter there with his family after fleeing Abassan Al-Kabira near the border.

Radwan Abu al-Kass, a boxing instructor and father of three, said he had been one of the last to evacuate his five-storey building in the Al Rimal district after the area came under attack. He finally left when a missile hit the building, which was destroyed by a bigger strike after he got out.

"The whole district was just erased," he said.

Two members of Hamas' political office, Jawad Abu Shammala and Zakaria Abu Maamar, were killed in an air strike in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, a Hamas official said. The Israeli military said they had been struck overnight.

They were the first senior Hamas members killed since Israel began pounding the enclave. Israel said Abu Shammala had led a number of operations targeting Israeli civilians. He was a member of the Hamas politburo in charge of economic affairs.

Three Gaza journalists were killed while reporting outside a building, bringing the number of journalists killed to six.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Israeli strikes had since Saturday destroyed more than 22,600 residential units and 10 health facilities and damaged 48 schools.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, who denounced the Hamas attacks, said civilians had been harmed in Israeli strikes on tower blocks, schools and UN buildings.

"International humanitarian law is clear: the obligation to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects remains applicable throughout the attacks," he said.

Trail of blood

In Israel, there has still been no complete official count of the dead and missing from Saturday's attacks. In the southern town of Be'eri, where more than 100 bodies have been retrieved, volunteers in yellow vests and face masks carried the dead out of homes on stretchers.

A long, wide trail of blood wound along the floor of a house where bodies had been dragged out by militants into the street from a blood-soaked kitchen strewn with overturned furniture.

"The thing I want the most is to wake up from this nightmare," said Elad Hakim, a survivor from an outdoor music festival where Hamas had killed 260 partygoers at dawn.

Amid the burned-out houses of the Kfar Aza kibbutz, bodies of Israeli residents and Hamas militants lay on the ground beside scattered furniture and torched cars. Israeli soldiers went from house to house to take away the dead. The stench of corpses hung heavy in the air.

"You see the babies, the mothers, the fathers, in their bedrooms, in their protection rooms and how the terrorist kills them. It's not a war, it's not a battlefield. It's a massacre," said Israeli Major General Itai Veruv, escorting journalists at the scene.

"It's something we used to imagine from our grandfathers, grandmothers in the pogrom in Europe and other places."

Soldiers were still securing the paths of the kibbutz as bursts of gunfire and explosions could be heard in the distance. Jets roared above and smoke could be seen rising from Gaza. Sirens warned of incoming rockets intercepted overhead.

Israel's next move could be a ground offensive into Gaza, territory it left in 2005, after 38 years of occupation, and has kept under blockade since Hamas seized power there in 2007. The siege it announced on Monday would keep out even food and fuel.

Israel also struck the border gate inside the sole crossing from Gaza into Egypt to the south.

Israel was caught so completely off guard by Saturday's Hamas assault that it took more than two days to finally seal off the multi-billion-dollar, high-tech barrier wall that was meant to have been impenetrable.

Israeli leaders now must decide whether to constrain their retaliation to safeguard the hostages now hidden in Gaza. Hamas spokesperson Abu Ubaida issued a threat on Monday that one Israeli captive would be killed for every Israeli bombing of a civilian house without warning - and to broadcast such killings.

Western countries have backed Israel. Arab cities have seen demonstrations in support of the Palestinians. Iran, Hamas's patron, celebrated the attacks but denied a direct role.

"We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime," Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech wearing a Palestinian scarf, though he said accusations Tehran was behind it were false.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.