Israel, reeling from the deadliest attack on its territory in half a century, formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday as the conflict’s death toll passed 1,100 casualties after the Palestinian fighters launched a massive surprise assault from Gaza.
The conflict, which is being considered as the biggest escalation in decades prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send a warning of a “long and difficult” war ahead as he dispatched thousands of Israeli forces to combat remaining Hamas fighters in the south while the air force once more bombed targets in the Gaza Strip.
Read more: Hamas fires rockets at Israel – IDF
The latest conflict’s has claimed 700 lives on the Israeli side, according to Reuters, while Gaza saw the death toll exceeding 400 count, including 20 children, with thousands more wounded on each side
Tens of thousands of Israeli forces were deployed on Sunday to battle holdout Hamas fighters in the south, where the bodies of civilians had been found strewn on roads and in town centers.
“The enemy is still on the ground,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari told journalists as a second night fell after the attack, adding Israel was reinforcing its military strength near the Gaza Strip.
Gun battles raged as the Israeli army sought to secure desert regions near the coastal enclave, rescue Israeli hostages and evacuate all areas near Gaza.
“We’ll reach each and every community until we kill every terrorist in Israel,” vowed Hagari, a day after hundreds of Hamas fighters launched their shock offensive and surged into Israel using vehicles, boats and even motorised paragliders.
There was widespread shock and dismay in Israel after at least 100 citizens were captured by Hamas and abducted into Gaza, with images circulating on social media of bloodied hostages, and distraught relatives pleading for the state to rescue them.
Yifat Zailer, 37, said she was horrified to see online video footage from Gaza that showed her female cousin and the woman’s children, aged nine months and three years.