After formally declaring war, Israel approves major military steps in wake of Hamas attack as death tolls rise | CBC News

After formally declaring war, Israel approves major military steps in wake of Hamas attack as death tolls rise | CBC News

Watch the latest reporting on the conflict between Israel and Hamas

Featured VideoIsrael’s prime minister says the country is ‘at war’ after Palestinian militants launched a series of surprise attacks.

The latest:

  • Israeli media reports at least 700 people in Israel killed since Saturday’s attacks; Palestinian officials say more than 400 people killed in Gaza.
  • Hezbollah claims responsibility for strike in northern Israel; Israeli military fires back into southern Lebanon.
  • PM Netanyahu announces halt to supply of electricity, fuel and goods to Gaza.
  • Hamas says its attacks are retaliation for Israel’s escalated aggression in West Bank and Jerusalem.
  • U.S. secretary of state says Hamas may want to disrupt attempts to normalize Saudi-Israel ties. 
  • Global Affairs Canada looking into reports one Canadian has died, two Canadians are missing.

The Israeli government formally declared war Sunday and gave the green light for “significant military steps” to retaliate against Hamas for its surprise attack from the Gaza Strip a day earlier, as the total death toll on both sides surpassed 1,100 and thousands have been wounded.

More than 24 hours after Hamas launched its unprecedented incursion out of Gaza, Israeli forces were still trying to crush the last groups of militant fighters holed up in several towns of southern Israel. The reported death toll is at least 700 in Israel and 400 in Gaza as Israeli airstrikes pound the territory.

Authorities were still trying to determine how many civilians and soldiers were seized by Hamas fighters during the mayhem and taken back to Gaza. From videos and witnesses, the captives are known to include women, children and the elderly.

Home to some two million people, the Gaza Strip has been run by Hamas since it seized control of the territory in 2007. However an independent UN Human Rights commission last year found Israel has continued to occupy Gaza despite disengaging in 2005, by effectively controlling movement in and out of its borders and the supply of essentials like water and electricity. Gaza’s economy has long been choked by a blockade imposed by Israel with Egypt’s help — one that has been “widely condemned as a policy that may amount to collective punishment,” according to the UN. 

Over the past year, Israel’s far-right government has ramped up settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settler violence has displaced hundreds of Palestinians there, and tensions have flared around the Al-Aqsa mosque, a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

“What we have in our hands will release all our prisoners,” Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau, told Al-Jazeera TV on Saturday.

A senior Hamas official, Mousa Abu Marzouk, told the Arab-language news outlet al-Ghad that Hamas is holding more than 100 people captive, in addition to over 30 people said to be held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group.

Global Affairs Canada cited reports that one Canadian in the region has died and two other Canadians are missing. 

“Canadian government officials in Israel are in contact with local authorities to confirm and gather additional information,” Global Affairs said in a statement.

The agency said it has received over 400 inquiries about the fighting. It said 1,419 Canadians are registered with the voluntary Registration of Canadians Abroad in the state of Israel, and 492 Canadians are registered in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

In an official statement on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the Hamas attack, expressed support for “Israel’s right to defend itself, in accordance with international law,” and said Canada stands with the Israeli people.

“We call for the immediate release of those being held hostage and demand they be treated in accordance with international law,” Trudeau said. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and we are in touch with our international partners to restore peace and security in the region.”

WATCH | An Asia-Pacific Foundation director says Hamas attacks an intelligence failure at ‘unprecedented scale’: 

How Hamas caught Israeli defence off guard

Featured VideoSajjan Gohel, international security director at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, discusses the internal and external geopolitical pressures that caused Israeli defence teams to overlook plans for the massive Hamas offensive that has launched a war and resulted in over 1,000 casualties so far.

Differing views on detainment of prisoners

Israel has detained over 1,200 prisoners, mostly Palestinians, without charges. Israel says the controversial tactic is necessary to contain dangerous militants and avoid divulging incriminating material for security reasons. But Palestinians and human rights groups say the system denies due process and is widely abused.

Israel’s security cabinet discussed taking “significant military steps” on Sunday. The steps were not defined, but the declaration appears to give the military and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a wide mandate.

Fears of conflict spreading to other fronts escalated Sunday morning after Lebanon-based Hezbollah claimed responsibility for strikes on Israeli positions in a disputed area along the border with Syria’s Golan Heights. 

Israel’s military responded with armed drone strikes on Hezbollah targets in a disputed area where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.

Smoke rises over a mountain in the distance.

Smoke rises from Halta village as seen from Ibl al-Saqi village in southern Lebanon, near the border with Israel on Sunday. (Aziz Taher/Reuters)

The flareup on Israel’s northern border threatened to draw into the battle a fierce enemy of Israel’s that is backed by Iran and estimated to have tens of thousands of rockets at its disposal.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military official, told reporters the situation at the northern border was calm after the exchange.

But he said fighting was still underway in the south and there were still hostage situations there.

The Israeli military said it was evacuating at least five towns close to Gaza.

Hagari said troops had moved into every community near the Gaza frontier, where they planned to evacuate all civilians and scour the area for any remaining militants.

“We will go through every community until we kill every terrorist that is in Israeli territory,” he said. In Gaza, “every terrorist located in a house, all the commanders in houses, will be hit by Israeli fire. That will continue escalating in the coming hours.”

Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning, including towns and other communities as far as 24 kilometres from the Gaza border, and took hostages as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response, while the militant group launched thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.

A man in a white t-shirt with

Israelis inspect the rubble of a building in Tel Aviv a day after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. (Oded Balilty/The Associated Press)

On Sunday, the Israeli military said its forces were fighting Hamas incursions in eight places. An Israeli military spokesperson said two hostage situations in Gaza had been “resolved,” but did not say whether all the hostages had been rescued alive.

Israel struck 426 targets in Gaza, its military said, flattening residential buildings in giant explosions. That included a 14-storey tower that held dozens of apartments as well as Hamas offices in central Gaza City. Israeli forces say they fired a warning just before.

At least 413 people in the Gaza Strip were killed in Israeli strikes, including 78 children and 41 women, and close to 2,000 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Seven people were also killed by Israeli army fire in the West Bank, including a child, it added. 

Two men wearing green uniforms carry an orange canvas stretcher in front of a crowd of people on top of a pile of concrete rubble and a collapsed building.

Palestinians are seen on Sunday searching through the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli strikes in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli government formally declared war Sunday to retaliate against Hamas’s surprise attack from the Gaza Strip a day earlier. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday spoke to CNN about how the Hamas attack could have been motivated in part to derail a U.S.-brokered diplomatic deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Blinken said Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran — a longtime regional rival of Saudi Arabia — are all opposed to Israel normalizing relations with its neighbours, “so it’s entirely possible.”

In Gaza, much of the population was thrown into darkness after nightfall as electrical supplies from Israel — which supplies almost all the territories’ power — were cut off.

WATCH | ‘When you back people into a corner, it’s just a matter of time before they fight back,’ says Canadian Palestinian: 

Years of oppression led to Hamas attacks, says Canadian Palestinian

Featured VideoPalestinians worldwide watch anxiously as the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates. Ramsey Zeid, president of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba, fears for loved ones’ safety, and says the violence wasn’t surprising. ‘When you treat people like that, when you back them into a corner, it’s just a matter of time before they get fed up and they fight back.’

Israel stops sending electricity, goods to Gaza

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that Israel would stop supplying electricity, fuel and goods to Gaza. 

In a televised address Saturday night, he said the military will use all of its strength to destroy Hamas’s capabilities.

“All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from, we will turn them into ruins,” he added. “Get out of there now,” he told Gaza residents, who have no way to leave the tiny, overcrowded Mediterranean territory.

Overnight, the Israeli military issued warnings in Arabic to communities near the border with Israel to leave their homes for areas deeper inside the tiny enclave.

UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinians, said more than 20,000 Palestinians left Gaza’s border region to head further inside the territory and take refuge in UN schools. 

A major question now was whether Israel will launch a ground assault into Gaza, a move that in the past has brought intensified casualties.

Netanyahu vowed that Hamas “will pay an unprecedented price.”

But, he warned, “This war will take time. It will be difficult.” Israel’s military was bringing four divisions of troops as well as tanks to the Gaza border, joining 31 battalions already in the area, a spokesperson said.

WATCH | Canadian-Israeli man shares experience of sheltering from Hamas rocket attacks: 

Hamas attack on ‘a whole new level,’ says Canadian Israeli

Featured VideoCarey Fruitman spent Saturday morning in and out of the bomb shelter in his home in Rishon LeZion, Israel, following Hamas’s surprise attack. Fruitman, who has lived in Israel for the past 30 years, says rocket strikes are nothing new but Saturday’s attacks are unprecedented.

Rising tensions ahead of surprise assault

Asked by reporters how Hamas had managed to catch the army off guard, Lt.-Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli army spokesperson, replied, “That’s a good question.”

The strength, sophistication and timing of the Saturday morning attack shocked Israelis.

Hamas fighters used explosives to break through the border fence enclosing Gaza, then crossed with motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders and speed boats on the coast. In an amateur video, hundreds of terrified young people who had been dancing at a rave fled for their lives after Hamas militants entered the area and began firing at them.

The leader of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, said the assault was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza and a series of recent incidents, including more settlements in occupied West Bank, Israeli settler violence and further displacement of Palestinians, that have brought Israeli-Palestinian tensions to a fever pitch.

People stand on a large pile of concrete rubble in front of a collapsed dome.

People stand outside a mosque destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis in Gaza on Sunday. (Yousef Masoud/The Associated Press)

“Enough is enough,” Deif, who does not appear in public, said in the recorded message.

He said the attack was only the start of what he called Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, and called on Palestinians from East Jerusalem to northern Israel to join the fight.

Hamas said it had planned for a potentially long fight.

“We are prepared for all options, including all-out war,” said al-Arouri of the Hamas political bureau. “We are ready to do whatever is necessary for the dignity and freedom of our people.”

WATCH | How Hamas militants caught Israel off guard

Hamas operation designed to ‘change the status quo,’ expert says

Featured VideoHamas militants caught Israel off guard with a barrage of rocket attacks and surprise infiltration of its borders on Saturday. ‘This is an attempt to shatter not just Israeli sense of complacency but also of the region and of the great powers like the United States and Europe,’ says Khaled Elgindy, senior fellow and director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs with the Middle East Institute.

Hezbollah attacks support ‘Palestinian resistance’

Hezbollah, which effectively controls southern Lebanon, said in a statement that its Sunday morning attack using “large numbers of rockets and shells” was in solidarity with the “Palestinian resistance.”

It said the Israeli positions were directly hit.

Israel’s military fired back using armed drones at the Lebanese areas. By attacking Israeli positions in a disputed area rather than Israel proper, Hezbollah appears to be trying to avoid an all-out conflict with Israel.

Israel and Hezbollah are archenemies and have fought several wars in the past, the most recent a 34-day war in 2006 that left 1,200 dead in Lebanon and 160 in Israel.

Two lines of artillery shells sit on the ground, pointing upward, in front of a man in a military uniform sitting with his back turned.

An Israeli soldier rests next to artillery shells at an undisclosed location in northern Israel bordering Lebanon. (Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images)

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