Israel vows to “destroy Hamas” as death toll rises from unprecedented attack

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Tel Aviv — Israeli soldiers continued battling Hamas militants in the streets of southern Israel Sunday, while in the north of the country they exchanged fire with Hezbollah militants launching rockets from Lebanon. Some Israeli communities along the Lebanon border were urged to evacuate.

Israeli officials confirmed to CBS News on Sunday that at least 600 Israeli civilians and members of the military had died since Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from Gaza early Saturday morning. Another 1,800 were wounded.

The Israeli rescue service Zaka said its paramedics removed about 260 bodies from a music festival attended by thousands that came under attack by Hamas militants, the Associated Press reported Sunday. The total figure is expected to be higher as other paramedic teams were working in the area.

It was the deadliest day in decades in the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Gaza Ministry of Health said Sunday that 370 Palestinians have died and 2,200 were wounded. 

Israelis turn to social media to search for loved ones after Hamas attack

U.S. President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “pledged his full support” to the Israeli government, the White House said.

“The President also conveyed that additional assistance for the Israeli Defense Forces is now on its way to Israel with more to follow over the coming days,” the White House said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed Sunday that the U.S. will be “rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions.” Austin said he had directed the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the eastern Mediterranean, which includes an aircraft carrier and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy. 

Other U.S. politicians were quick to condemn the Hamas assault and pledge support for Israel.

Who attacked Israel?

Early Saturday morning, as Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip launched thousands of missiles from the small, blockaded Palestinian territory, dozens more broke through the heavily fortified border fence and crossed into Israeli communities on motorcycles, paragliders and pickup trucks, initiating an offensive that appeared to take Israel completely by surprise.

Hamas sent fighters storming into an estimated 22 separate locations in southern Israel, shooting people in the streets and abducting both civilians and Israel security forces and taking them back to Gaza.

An Israeli soldier patrols near a police station which was the site of a battle following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 8, 2023. / Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

Hamas is the Palestinian militant faction that governs the Gaza Strip, a 230-square-mile area where more than two million people live. Israel and the U.S. have designated Hamas a terror organization, and both countries accuse Iran of directly funding and supporting the group.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world and has been under Israeli blockade since 2007.

Israeli authorities said they were still fighting Hamas militants in six locations inside Israel Sunday morning.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel was engaged in “a long and difficult war,” and he vowed that the Israeli military would use all of its strength to destroy Hamas.

Palestinians gather next to the ruins of Watan Tower, which was destroyed in Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Oct. 8, 2023. / Credit: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Getty

“All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from, we will turn them into ruins,” Netanyahu said.

“Get out of there,” Netanyahu urged Gaza residents, who have no way to leave the blockaded territory, as Israel cut off electricity to the region.

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah group, meanwhile, said it fired dozens of rockets Sunday morning at Israeli positions in a disputed, Israeli-occupied region known as the Golan Heights, which borders Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Hezbollah said the attack using “large numbers of rockets and shells” was launched in solidarity with the “Palestinian resistance.”

The U.S. government says that, like Hamas, Hezbollah gets most of its funding and support from Iran.

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