Death toll soars to 1,300 as fighting between Hamas and Israel rages

More than 1,300 people killed as Israel pummels Gaza and battles continue between Hamas fighters and Israeli soldiers.

A relative reacts as Palestinians carry casualties from under the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli strikes, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
A relative reacts as Palestinians carry wounded people rescued from the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli raids, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

More than 800 Israelis and some 500 Palestinians have been killed amid heavy fighting and bombardment following the largest attack by the Palestinian armed group Hamas against Israel in decades.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday authorities would impose a total blockade on the Gaza Strip, cutting electricity and blocking food and fuel supplies as part of “a complete siege” on the Hamas-run enclave.

It came as Gaza’s Ministry of Health said at least 510 Palestinians had been killed and 2,751 more had been wounded in Israeli air raids on the enclave since Saturday, when Hamas launched its multipronged offensive on Israel.

In Israel, the number of people killed has reached 800, with more than 2,200 also wounded.

The Israeli military said it hit more than 1,000 targets in Gaza, including air raids that levelled much of the town of Beit Hanoon, known as Erez to Israelis, in the enclave’s northeast corner. The United Nations said more than 123,000 Palestinians in Gaza had been displaced amid the intense bombardment.

In Gaza, a tiny enclave of 2.3 million people sealed off by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 16 years, residents feared further escalation.

Al Jazeera’s Jamileh Abu Zanoona, reporting from Gaza, said the territory’s Shujayea neighbourhood was targeted by heavy bombardment on Monday.

A fourth mosque was destroyed in an overnight Israeli air raid on the Yarmouk neighbourhood in Gaza, forcing thousands more people to evacuate their homes, Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed reported.

“Dozens of homes were destroyed and are inhabitable,” ElSayed said.

Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, told reporters that Israel has taken “control” of its communities following the mass incursion of Hamas fighters.

Hagari said there had been some isolated incidents on Monday morning, but that “at this stage, there is no fighting in the communities”.

He added that “there might still be terrorists in the region”.

Earlier, another spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht, acknowledged that it was “taking more time than we expected to get things back into a defensive, security posture”.

Israeli officials said 70 additional Hamas fighters infiltrated Be’eri kibbutz, which the military has been unable to wrest from Hamas, overnight.

The army has called up about 300,000 reservists and said in a statement that Israel would aim to end Hamas’s rule of Gaza.

“We have never drafted so many reservists on such a scale,” Hagari said. “We are going on the offensive.”

The attackers shot dead dozens of young Israelis – media reported as many as 260 killed – at an outdoor desert dance party. A day later, dozens of survivors were still emerging from hiding. The site was littered with wrecked and abandoned cars.

“It was just a massacre, a total massacre,” Arik Nani, who had been celebrating his 26th birthday and escaped by hiding for hours in a field, told Reuters news agency.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have said they are holding more than 130 captives, adding they would be traded for the release of thousands of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The captives are believed to include soldiers and civilians – including women, children and older adults – and to be comprised of mostly Israelis but also people of other nationalities.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies