At least 370 Palestinians were martyred and nearly 2,000 others were wounded during the past two days of heavy airstrikes carried out by Israeli warplanes on the residential areas in the besieged Gaza Strip while the death toll from Saturday’s attack by Hamas surged to 700 on the Israeli side, according to Arab media reports.
Additionally, around 2,200 individuals sustained injuries in the massive attack by Hamas on Israel, the Arab media revealed, adding that dozens of the injured were in critical condition in hospitals.
Witnesses told Anadolu that warplanes bombed a military location belonging to Palestinian groups in western Gaza, as well as houses and public buildings in the town of Beit Hanoun and other sites in southern and central Gaza.
According to Israeli media reports, over 2,000 people sustained injuries during the two-day attacks by Hamas freedom fighters. In addition to this, over 100 Israelis were held hostage by Hamas, the reports also claimed.
The health ministry of the Palestinian authority said at least 370 Palestinians have been martyred, including 20 children, and nearly 2,000 wounded by Israeli air strikes in Gaza since Saturday.
'US to send warship to protect Israel's coasts'
Hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration was considering Israel's aid requests and the announcement of new military aid to Israel was expected by night, an American official — on the condition of anonymity — claimed that Washington will send a navy fleet to ensure the safety of Israeli coastal areas.
Israeli forces battled holdout Hamas fighters and pounded targets in the Gaza Strip with the army saying tens of thousands of soldiers were deployed in southern desert regions near the coastal enclave, to rescue Israeli hostages and then evacuate the entire region within 24 hours.
"We´ll reach each and every community till we kill every terrorist in Israel," said military spokesperson Daniel Hagari, a day after hundreds of Hamas fighters crossed into Israel in vehicles, boats and even using paragliders.
"Our mission for the upcoming 24 hours is to evacuate all residents" from communities around the Gaza Strip, he told journalists.
Israel also came under attack from the north when Lebanon´s Hezbollah launched missiles and artillery shells "in solidarity" with the unprecedented surprise offensive from Gaza that left hundreds dead on both sides.
Israel was shocked when Gaza´s rulers Hamas launched a multi-pronged assault at dawn Saturday with thousands of rockets and ground, air and sea forces, attacking and infiltrating Israeli towns and kibbutz communities.
An unknown number of Israeli soldiers and civilians were abducted into Gaza as hostages, sparking dismay in Israel and massively complicating its military retaliation campaign.
According to the Israeli news website Ynet, "dozens of Israeli captives, including numerous women, children and elders, are believed to have been taken into the Gaza Strip".
Gun battles still raged Sunday between Israeli forces and hundreds of Hamas fighters in multiple locations, including at a police station in Sderot where police and special forces "neutralised 10 armed terrorists", police said.
"A lot of people have been killed," said another army spokesman, Richard Hecht, after the military released the names of 26 fallen soldiers. "We lost soldiers, lost commanders and lost a lot of civilians.
"We are completing efforts to retake full control of Israeli territory from Hamas," he added, reporting that the army had struck 426 Hamas targets including Gaza tunnels, buildings and other infrastructure.
Hamas predicts victory
Hamas has labelled its major attack "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood" and called on "resistance fighters in the West Bank" as well as in "Arab and Islamic nations" to join the battle.
Its attack came half a century after the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, stunning Israel and sparking bitter recriminations inside the country on what was widely considered an enormous intelligence failure.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday predicted "victory" and vowed to press ahead with "the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons".
Hamas said Saturday it had fired 5,000 rockets, while Israel reported more than 3,000 incoming projectiles. Several bypassed the Iron Dome missile defence system and smashed into buildings as far as Tel Aviv.
Under the cover of the rocket barrage, Hamas fighters smashed the Gaza fence and crossed into Israel.
Israel responded by rushing forces to the embattled south, calling up reservists and hitting Gaza in operation "Swords of Iron", with some observers predicting a possible ground invasion of Gaza.
Israeli attacks have reduced several Gaza residential towers to rubble in what Israel said were strikes aimed at Hamas facilities and which had followed warning calls for people inside to evacuate.
Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, leading to Israel´s crippling blockade of the impoverished enclave of 2.3 million people on the Mediterranean coast.
Israel and Hamas have fought several wars since, with the latest large-scale military exchange in May leaving 34 Palestinians and one Israeli dead.
The Hamas offensive follows months of rising violence, mostly in the occupied West Bank, and tensions around Gaza´s border and at contested holy sites in Jerusalem.
Before Saturday, the violence this year had killed at least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis and two foreigners, including combatants and civilians, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Violence has flared again in the West Bank since Saturday, leaving at least seven Palestinians dead in clashes, according to the health ministry in Ramallah.
Hamas said its unprecedented offensive by land, air and sea was in response to the desecration of the Al Aqsa Mosque as well as Israeli atrocities against Palestinians over the decades. These include the 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year, increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinians as well as the growth of illegal settlements.
Mohammed Deif, a Hamas military commander, said the time has come “for the enemy to understand… they cannot keep going without consequences”.
Hamas leaders said the assault that began in Gaza would spread to the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to reduce the group's Gaza hideouts to "rubble".
"Terrorists rampaged and broke into homes, massacring civilians," the Israeli army said, adding that more than 1,000 people in Israel were wounded by gunshots or the more than 3,000 incoming rockets.
"We are at war," Netanyahu told the stunned nation on Saturday morning, after Hamas had launched its multi-pronged attack at dawn, half a century after the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
"I'm telling the people of Gaza: get out of there now, because we're about to act everywhere with all our force," the premier said later. "We'll strike them to the bitter end and avenge with force this black day they brought on Israel and its people."
He warned that "all the places in which Hamas is based, in this city of evil, all the places Hamas is hiding in, acting from — we´ll turn them into rubble."
"What happened today is unprecedented in Israel and I will see to it that it does not happen again."
Israel strikes southern Lebanon
Earlier today, Israel fired barrages of artillery into southern Lebanon after Hezbollah targeted three Israeli military positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Hezbollah, a powerful armed party with alleged ties to Iran, said it had launched guided rockets and artillery onto three posts in the Shebaa Farms “in solidarity” with the Palestinian people.
The Israeli military said on Sunday it fired artillery into an area of Lebanon where cross-border mortar fire was launched. “IDF (Israel Defence Forces) artillery is currently striking the area in Lebanon from where a shooting was carried out,” it said.
Israel’s military said one of its drones struck a Hezbollah post in the area of Har Dov, an area in Shebaa.
“At this point, there is no further threat in Har Dov or the northern arena,” IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in televised remarks, adding that the military remained on high alert.
Israel has held the Shebaa Farms, a 15-square-mile (39-square-km) patch of land, since 1967. Both Syria and Lebanon claim the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese.
As the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting for Sunday, President Joe Biden voiced "rock solid and unwavering" support for the US ally and warned "against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation".
'So many bodies'
Hamas started the multi-pronged attack around 6:30am (0330 GMT) with thousands of rockets aimed as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, some bypassing the Iron Dome defence system and hitting buildings.
Hamas fighters — travelling in ground vehicles, motorised paragliders and boats — breached Gaza's security barrier and attacked nearby Israeli towns and military posts, opening fire on residents and passersby.
"Send help, please!" one Israeli woman sheltering with her two-year-old child pleaded as militants outside opened fire and tried to break into their safe room, Israeli media reported.
Bodies were strewn on the streets of the Israeli town of Sderot near Gaza and inside cars, the windscreens shattered by a hail of bullets.
"I saw many bodies, of terrorists and civilians," one man told AFP, standing beside covered corpses on a road near Gevim Kibbutz in southern Israel.
"So many bodies, so many bodies."
'Gates of hell'
Israeli army Major General Ghasan Alyan warned Hamas had "opened the gates of hell".
An AFP journalist in Gaza saw clouds of dust from the remains of bombed residential towers which Gaza's interior ministry said contained 100 apartments.
Israel's military said it had warned residents to evacuate before targeting the multi-storey buildings used by Hamas.
Israel's state-run electricity company cut the power supply to Gaza as army flares lit up the night sky.
The escalation follows months of rising violence, mostly in the occupied West Bank, and tensions around Gaza´s border and at contested holy sites in Jerusalem.
Before Saturday, at least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis and two foreigners had been killed this year, including combatants and civilians, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group was on the "verge of a great victory".
"The cycle of intifadas (uprisings) and revolutions in the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons must be completed," he said.