In a news conference Tuesday morning, Israel Defense Forces international spokesperson Richard Hecht said that the military had “more or less restored full control over the border fence,” echoing similar comments made by spokesmen the day before.
Israeli towns around the border area “had been secured,” Hecht said, but “there could still be people inside.” He referenced firefights between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters overnight in the towns of Sa’ad and Kissufim, but said that “no one came in” from Gaza.
Outside Sderot, one of the largest towns near Gaza and scene of some of the fiercest fighting, soldiers were still deploying to control areas seen as under threat as rockets from Gaza arced overhead.
Roads into the town were strewn with glass and abandoned vehicles.
The scale and brutality of the Hamas attack early Saturday left Israel reeling. Funerals have been held across the country. The shocked and devastated families of more than 100 hostages, who Hamas militants claim to be holding in Gaza, have received no news of the fate of their loved ones.
A spokesman for the military wing of Hamas told Al Jazeera on Monday that the group would begin publicly executing a civilian hostage each time Gazan homes were hit by Israeli airstrikes “without prior warning.”
Israel had announced hours earlier that it was implementing a “full siege” of the densely populated Gaza Strip — “no electricity, no food, no fuel,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — as part of a campaign which now aims to destroy Hamas military capabilities, but is also likely to cause massive harm to the area’s resident in the process.
Over 2 million people live in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians. Israel maintained a complete aerial and sea blockade of the area even before the latest crisis, allowing only a small flow of goods and people through land crossings which have now been cut off. A full-scale siege of any civilian population is prohibited under international law.
At least 765 people have been killed in Gaza and 4,000 injured since the bombing raids began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The United Nations says that more than 187,000 people have been displaced, and the number is expected to rise.
The IDF said Tuesday morning that its fighter jets struck more than 200 targets in Gaza overnight, most in Rimal and Khan Yunis. Videos published on the army’s Facebook page showed explosions leveling buildings and billows of thick smoke across neighborhoods as residents piled the wounded into ambulances.
In a televised address Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel’s response was only just starting. “What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations,” he said.
Netanyahu returned to office late last year as part of a new governing coalition, the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history. His new term has been defined by domestic turmoil and an increasingly parlous situation for Palestinian and Arab-Israeli citizens, as coalition lawmakers champion plans to weaken the country’s Supreme Court, and for the expansion of unlawful settlements in Arab areas.
Since the new government took office in December, violence has surged in the West Bank, in particular, as Jewish settlers there have stepped up attacks against Palestinian residents and Israeli security forces carry out increasingly deadly raids targeting a new generation of Palestinian militants.
On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk urged “all States with influence” to defuse the rapidly growing “powder keg.”
“We know how this plays out, time and time again — the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives and incalculable suffering inflicted on both communities,” said Türk.
But there were few indications that the conflict’s trajectory was not one of escalation, as footage of the atrocities committed Saturday by Hamas militants continued to emerge, recovered by authorities from surveillance and dash-cam videos in areas where the attacks were still reverberating.
New surveillance video obtained by The Washington Post shows two Hamas militants gaining access to Be’eri, a kibbutz in southern Israel where more than 100 bodies were later recovered, early Saturday by laying in wait and shooting at a car entering the small community in southern Israel.
The footage, recorded shortly after dawn, shows the camouflaged pair slowly approaching the closed gate from the northwest side.
One fighter gets on his knees and peers underneath the gate before walking across the road, where he breaks the glass of a security kiosk and climbs inside. Less than a minute later, a sedan with at least two people in the front seats pulls up to the entrance. As the gate begins to open, both fighters open fire on the passengers. The car rolls forward through the entrance as the two fighters run into the kibbutz, one knocking a camera that has been filming the incident.
Additional surveillance footage taken minutes later shows two fighters matching their appearance walking through a courtyard at the base. The footage was provided to The Post by the Telegram channel South First Responders, which has uploaded videos taken from southern Israel in recent days.
Other footage analyzed by The Post shows what appears to be four civilians detained by militants. The same individuals, identified by their physical appearance and clothing, were seen in a later video sprawled on the ground, apparently killed.
Loveluck reported from London and Oakford from Washington. Ellen Francis in London, Amar Nadhir in Bucharest and Meg Kelly in Washington contributed to this report.