Israel’s air campaign against a battered Gaza continued as the war entered its sixth day. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas has resulted in a death toll surpassing 2,700 lives as of Thursday, making it the most serious escalation in the region in decades. RT provides an overview of the key events that have unfolded thus far.
Dubbed ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’, Hamas’ operation commenced on Saturday morning with a sustained barrage of rockets fired from Gaza towards targets in Israel. Hamas claimed to have launched 5,000 rockets in the initial barrage, while the Israel Defense Forces estimated the number to be closer to 2,500. Following the bombardment, Hamas fighters bulldozed portions of the fence separating Gaza from Israel and infiltrated Israel on motorbikes, pickup trucks, and paragliders.
The Hamas units swiftly advanced into Israeli territory, storming 22 towns, villages, and settlements by Saturday afternoon. Reports of shocking brutality emerged, with at least 260 Israeli and foreign civilians killed at a music festival, and an unknown number taken captive by the militants. The settlements of Be’eri and Kfar Aza witnessed some of the most harrowing scenes, with houses ransacked and men, women, and children murdered. As of Thursday, bodies were still being recovered from Be’eri, where Israeli authorities confirmed 110 fatalities and dozens taken as captives.
The attacks on civilians in these settlements garnered international support for Israel, although unconfirmed rumors, such as the claim that Hamas fighters beheaded 40 babies and raped numerous women, were also spread by pro-Israel pundits and politicians.
In response to the attacks by Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “fight them to the bitter end” and declared a state of war on Sunday. The Israel Defense Forces were deployed to clear Israeli towns and villages of Hamas fighters, and a complete siege of Gaza was imposed on Monday. Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have been ongoing since Saturday, resulting in substantial civilian casualties. Entire city blocks have been flattened, and the Palestinian Health Ministry reported on Thursday that over 1,400 people, including 447 children, have been killed in the strikes. Palestinian officials claimed that the majority of the dead and wounded are women, children, and the elderly.
Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz formed a wartime unity government on Wednesday, and the call-up of 360,000 military reservists was authorized. Although Israeli forces are preparing for a ground maneuver into Gaza, the green light has not yet been given by the government.
Questions have arisen about how Israeli intelligence, which was previously believed to have comprehensive surveillance over Gaza, missed Hamas’ preparations for the assault. Egyptian intelligence officials claimed to have warned their Israeli counterparts multiple times before the attack, but it is unclear whether these warnings reached Netanyahu. The Israeli military has also faced criticism for its slow response to the initial incursion from Gaza.
The origins of Hamas’ weapons for the attack remain unclear. They were seen wielding AR-15-style rifles, which is unusual for the group. Some suggest that the weapons may have come from the United States, either from Ukraine or abandoned stockpiles in Afghanistan.
The casualties on both sides continue to mount, with over 1,300 Israelis killed and more than 3,000 wounded, according to the Israeli government. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported over 1,400 Palestinians killed and around 5,000 wounded. The hostage situation in Gaza remains a concern, as Hamas is thought to be holding approximately 150 people captive.
The conflict shows no signs of abating, with neither side indicating conditions for peace. The US has pledged to increase military aid to Israel and stationed the USS Gerald R. Ford, the world’s largest aircraft carrier, in the eastern Mediterranean. President Joe Biden warned Iran, which backs Hezbollah, to be cautious in a speech on Wednesday. While there have been sporadic exchanges of fire with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Syria, the conflict appears contained for now.
As the situation continues to evolve, updates will be provided.