Death toll from Hamas onslaught passes 600, over 100 kidnapped, as Israel strikes Gaza

Over 2,000 wounded and relatives of missing issue impassioned pleas for help; IDF still working to clear terrorists from Israeli communities, over 34 hours after assault began

Oct. 8, 2023, 9:47 p.m.

In an assault of shocking breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations in southern Israel on Saturday morning, including towns and smaller communities as far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border. In some places, they roamed for hours, gunning down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response. At the same time, thousands of rockets were fired at towns in the south and center.

The scenes of chaos and suffering and the prolonged failure to gain control of the situation have shocked and outraged the nation, and sparked demands for answers on the many failures of intelligence, deployment and policy that had enabled such a national catastrophe, with hundreds of terrorists flooding civilian communities in armed convoys.

Officials estimated Sunday that over 600 people were killed in the massive assault launched by Hamas terrorists in Israeli communities near Gaza and by the thousands of rockets fired into Israel, making it the bloodiest day in the nation’s history, according to reports.

A spokesperson for ZAKA, a volunteer group that handles human remains after terror attacks and other disasters, told Hebrew media that the death toll rose sharply as Israeli teams managed to clear Hamas gunmen out of communities along the border and recover victims.

The Health Ministry said that the number of wounded in hospitals had reached 2,156, including 20 in critical condition and 338 seriously wounded.

In addition to those killed and injured, Hamas gunmen took an unknown number of civilians and soldiers captive into Gaza after overrunning several military bases and communities.

Social media was filled with horrifying videos of men, women and children being carried into the Strip, many of them appearing to have been abused. There were also videos published of dead Israelis taken, including soldiers, the bodies of some of whom were paraded in the streets.

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday it had established a situation room to focus on putting together accurate information regarding the Israeli hostages held by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF said the team will compile a “situational picture” for locating the captives, both soldiers and civilians.

“Amid all the complexity and uncertainty, it is necessary to issue reliable messages as quickly as possible. Some families have already received messages about their loved ones,” the IDF said.

Police and the IDF Home Front Command have also established a situation room to identify those killed in the attacks using DNA samples provided by families.

A long line of Israelis with missing relatives snaked outside a police station in central Israel to supply investigators with DNA samples and other means that could help identify their family members.

Writing on X, opposition chief Yair Lapid called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately appoint a coordinator for missing and captive Israelis “so that there will be someone to work with the families.”

Shortly after, Netanyahu appointed Gal Hirsch, a reservist brigadier-general who commanded the 91st Division in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as the government’s point man on missing and kidnapped citizens.

The Government Press Office, a body that operates under the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, said Sunday in a Facebook post that the number of hostages in Gaza was over 100.

Among the kidnapped were small children, the elderly and foreign nationals including 11 Thais working on farms near the border. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department was attempting to confirm reports that Americans had been killed or kidnapped.

Israel formally declared a state of war on Sunday as the death toll from an unprecedented Hamas attack a day earlier rose above 600, with the fate of over a hundred people abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip still unclear.

Israeli jets carried out “intense” airstrikes on targets in Gaza Sunday afternoon, shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that the security cabinet had voted Saturday evening to put the country officially at war, meaning it can carry out “significant military activities.”

Battles were ongoing Sunday in at least three communities near the Gaza border overrun by Hamas gunmen a day earlier, and rocket fire continued to dog Israeli communities as Israel girded for what was expected to be a prolonged campaign against the Gaza-based terror group.

In an assault of shocking breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations in southern Israel on Saturday morning, including towns and smaller communities as far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border. In some places, they roamed for hours, gunning down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response. At the same time, thousands of rockets were fired at towns in the south and center.

The scenes of chaos and suffering and the prolonged failure to gain control of the situation have shocked and outraged the nation, and sparked demands for answers on the many failures of intelligence, deployment and policy that had enabled such a national catastrophe, with hundreds of terrorists flooding civilian communities in armed convoys.

Officials estimated Sunday that over 600 people were killed in the massive assault launched by Hamas terrorists in Israeli communities near Gaza and by the thousands of rockets fired into Israel, making it the bloodiest day in the nation’s history, according to reports.

A spokesperson for ZAKA, a volunteer group that handles human remains after terror attacks and other disasters, told Hebrew media that the death toll rose sharply as Israeli teams managed to clear Hamas gunmen out of communities along the border and recover victims.

Israeli forces walk by a burned car and a collapsed building in the southern town of Sderot, October 8, 2023, following an assault by Hamas terrorists. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said that the number of wounded in hospitals had reached 2,156, including 20 in critical condition and 338 seriously wounded.

In addition to those killed and injured, Hamas gunmen took an unknown number of civilians and soldiers captive into Gaza after overrunning several military bases and communities.

Social media was filled with horrifying videos of men, women and children being carried into the Strip, many of them appearing to have been abused. There were also videos published of dead Israelis taken, including soldiers, the bodies of some of whom were paraded in the streets.

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday it had established a situation room to focus on putting together accurate information regarding the Israeli hostages held by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF said the team will compile a “situational picture” for locating the captives, both soldiers and civilians.

“Amid all the complexity and uncertainty, it is necessary to issue reliable messages as quickly as possible. Some families have already received messages about their loved ones,” the IDF said.

Police and the IDF Home Front Command have also established a situation room to identify those killed in the attacks using DNA samples provided by families.

A long line of Israelis with missing relatives snaked outside a police station in central Israel to supply investigators with DNA samples and other means that could help identify their family members.

Writing on X, opposition chief Yair Lapid called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately appoint a coordinator for missing and captive Israelis “so that there will be someone to work with the families.”

Shortly after, Netanyahu appointed Gal Hirsch, a reservist brigadier-general who commanded the 91st Division in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as the government’s point man on missing and kidnapped citizens.

The Government Press Office, a body that operates under the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, said Sunday in a Facebook post that the number of hostages in Gaza was over 100.

Among the kidnapped were small children, the elderly and foreign nationals including 11 Thais working on farms near the border. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department was attempting to confirm reports that Americans had been killed or kidnapped.

In Israel, a woman posted a heartfelt plea on social media with a photograph of her 85-year-old grandmother in the hands of Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“This is my grandmother, she was captured and taken to Gaza,” wrote Adva Adar on social media. “Her name is Yaffa Adar and she is 85!!”

“My grandmother established the kibbutz with her own hands, believed in Zionism, in this country that has abandoned her, a hostage,” she wrote. “She is apparently thrown somewhere, suffering from severe pain, without medication, without food and without water, dying of fear, alone.

“And no one is talking to us, no one can tell us anything.”

The call echoed the pleas from the families of those missing, many of whom say they have been abandoned by the authorities.

Desperate mother Alin Atias was looking for her daughter Amit Buskila.

“Nobody is helping us,” she said. “Where is the government?”

“I beg the whole country. Help me find my daughter,” she cried. “Benjamin Netanyahu, I am begging you, send helicopters. Find her, I beg you, please.”

Ella Ben Ami said that she believes her father has been kidnapped into Gaza after seeing a photo of him on social media being taken, and has no idea where her mother is.

All known hostage situations, which saw Israeli civilians held captive by Hamas gunmen in their towns, were resolved overnight, with army and police forces killing terrorists and rescuing their captives after hours-long standoffs in Sderot, Ofakim and Kibbutz Be’eri, where full IDF control was declared.

But fears that terrorists could still be roaming free throughout the country remained rampant, keeping much of the country on edge.

Police said they “neutralized” a car with Palestinian terrorists on the Route 4 highway as it sped northward from Gaza, before veering off into a field close to Ashkelon. But later reports indicated that the driver had been an Israeli and the chase a tragic case of mistaken identity.

In Sderot, where terrorists managed to overrun a police station Saturday, a resident riding an all-terrain vehicle was shot and wounded by Israeli forces after refusing to halt, the municipality said.

Additionally, there was sporadic rocket fire throughout the day, mainly toward communities in the south, in contrast to barrages a day earlier, which targeted areas as far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Four people were wounded, one of them critically, in a rocket barrage toward the Sderot area. The municipality said at least six buildings were hit, while the Sdot Negev Regional Council ordered residents to remain in shelters until further notice.More on Israel

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