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Conflict rages on as Israel launches revenge barrage on Gaza, as fears grow for Hamas captives

Israeli soldiers continue to battle Hamas fighters in the streets of south Israel and have launched retaliation strikes across Gaza, after Saturday’s attack by the Palestinian militant group left a reported 300 people dead – the deadliest attack in Israel in fifty years.

Overnight, Israel battered the Gaza Strip with air strikes as rockets from the blockaded Palestinian territory rained on Israel.

In a televised address on Saturday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military will use all of its strength to destroy Hamas’ capabilities.

“All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from, we will turn them into ruins,” he said. Mr Netanyahu vowed to turn Hamas strongholds in Gaza “to rubble” and warned of a “long and difficult” war.

Tens of thousands of reservists have been mobilised and are expected to launch a ground operation in Gaza, the BBC reported, while an Israeli military official said hundreds of militants had been killed and dozens captured.

Meanwhile, a brief exchange of strikes between Israel and Hezbollah took place after mortars were fired towards Israeli positions in the disputed Mount Dov/Shebaa Farms area.

Lebanon’s militant group claimed it had carried out the attack “in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance”, raising fears of a broader conflict.

Israeli soldiers in an armoured vehicle ride along a street in the northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on October 8, 2023. Fighting between Israeli forces and the Palestinian militant group Hamas raged on October 8, with hundreds killed on both sides after a surprise attack on Israel prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn they were "embarking on a long and difficult war". (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers in an armoured vehicle near the border with Lebanon (Photo: JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty)
Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was struck by an Israeli airstrike (Photo: Fatima Shbair/AP)

Mr Netanyahu warned Gaza residents, who have no way to leave the territory, to “get out of” areas sheltering Hamas militants likely to be hit.

Overnight Gazans received Israeli text messages telling them to leave their homes and move to city centres or take refuge in shelters.

Gaza’s 2.3 million people have endured a border blockade, enforced to varying degrees by Israel and Egypt, since Hamas militants seized control in 2007.

Officials in Gaza said since Saturday more than 300 people have been killed by Israeli strikes there. Among those killed were 20 children, while 2,000 people were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

On Sunday morning gun battles raged between Israeli forces and hundreds of Hamas fighters in multiple locations, including at the Sderot police station across the border from Gaza.

Police and Israeli army special forces “neutralised 10 armed terrorists” who were holed up inside the station, a police statement said.

Hamas fighters are reported to have taken an unknown number of civilians and soldiers captive into Gaza.

Israelis with missing relatives have been queueing outside a police station in central Israel to supply investigators with DNA samples and other means to help identify their family members.

The Israeli Embassy in the UK meanwhile confirmed that a British woman has reported her son missing amid fears he may been taken hostage.

British citizen Jake Marlowe had been working as a security guard at an outdoor event at Kibbutz Re’im near the border with Gaza, when the attacks took place on Saturday.

Humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, said two people died, and several others were injured after Israeli forces struck a hospital and ambulance in Gaza.

In a post on social media, the group said: “Healthcare facilities cannot become targets. We ask all parties to respect health infrastructures, which must remain a sanctuary for people seeking treatment.”

Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades hold a Palestinian flag as they destroy a tank of Israeli forces in Gaza City (Photo: Hani Alshaer/Anadolu Agency via Getty)
Rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City are intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome defence missile system (Photo: EYAD BABA/AFP via Getty)

It comes as the New York Times reported that morgues and hospitals in Gaza are struggling to cope with the number of dead and wounded.

Saturday’s massive rocket barrage and ground, air and sea offensive carried out by Hamas left at least 300 people dead and 1,500 wounded, according to Israeli media.

The militant group said it was in response to Israeli violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

US President Joe Biden voiced his “rock solid and unwavering” support for Israel and warned “against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation”.

The UK government’s Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the BBC the government was “unequivocally supporting Israel in this set of events”. He added: “We support them in whatever they decide to do to defend their country against the terrorist attacks”.

Previously, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “shocked” by the Hamas attacks and that Israel has an “absolute right to defend itself”.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today in light of the escalating violence.

*Additional reporting the Associated Press and Reuters

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