The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas has claimed the lives of over 700 Israelis and 500 Palestinians.
Following Hamas attacks against Israel from Gaza on Saturday and Israeli airstrikes in retaliation, the death toll has been rising. According to Israel’s health ministry, more than 700 Israelis have died, 100 have been abducted, and more than 2,500 have been injured.
Israeli attacks have also claimed the lives of 370 Palestinians, according to the Gazan health ministry, which reportedly reported 2,200 injuries. Yesterday, the Israeli government formally declared war on Hamas, launching a huge offensive against the Islamist militant organisation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already said Saturday the country was at war — but that declaration was rhetorical. Sunday’s move by the Israeli cabinet is an official decision, tantamount to a declaration of war by Congress in the United States.
Israeli troops have killed hundreds of Hamas fighters, wounded thousands and captured scores of others, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said yesterday. The initial Israeli counterattack began at 3:45 a.m. local time Sunday (8:45 p.m. ET Saturday), with “tens of tons of bombs” dropped, said IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
Israeli forces destroyed around 800 targets, including launching pads used by Hamas, with 50 planes attacking 120 targets in Beit Hanoun alone and destroying all Hamas gathering points there, Hagari said.
Pope calls for ceasefire, peace
Pope Francis called for an end to attacks and violence in Israel and Gaza yesterday, saying terrorism and war would not solve any problems, but only bring further suffering and death to innocent people.
“I express my solidarity with the relatives of the victims, and I pray for all those who are experiencing hours of terror and anguish. Let the attacks and weapons cease, please, because it must be understood that terrorism and war bring no solutions, but only the death and suffering of many innocent lives. War is a defeat, every war is a defeat. Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine,” the pope said.
US backs Isreal with nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
US President Joe Biden has “directed additional support” for Israel, according to a White House statement. A US Navy carrier strike group is headed to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as Israel prepares for a large-scale campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
According to the ship’s social media, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford was travelling alongside the Italian Navy earlier this week, which positioned it close to Israel.
Two other classes of Navy warships, guided missile destroyers and guided missile cruisers, will accompany the carrier.
The US is also making efforts to increase the number of squadrons of F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter jets it has in the area. In recent months, it dispatched a number of these aircraft to the Middle East in retaliation for Iranian military activity throughout the area, especially in Syria and the Gulf of Oman.