Israeli death toll hits 1,200 as military moves to rescue 150 hostages

Israeli tanks drive on a road near Sderot in southern Israel, following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, October 8, 2023. [Reuters]

At least 1,200 people have been killed and 2,700 injured following Hamas' attack on Israel last Saturday.

Israeli Defence Forces Spokesperson Lt Col Peter Lerner told reporters that out of the total deaths, 260 bodies were of victims who had attended the Supernova Trance Music Festival in a desert near the border.

He said the gunmen killed another 100 people in the Kibbutz while the rest were killed in their homes within the areas of attack.

Hamas sent waves of heavily armed fighters pouring across the border from Gaza to southern Israel and rampaging through rural communities.

According to CNN, homes were ransacked and set ablaze. Overturned mattresses, destroyed furniture, broken trinkets and unexploded grenades lay strewn across the grounds, along with bodies – a window into the scale of devastation wrought by Hamas in the area.

The Gaza Ministry of Health on Wednesday said at least 1,100 people, including over 326 children, have been killed in the Hama-ruled Gaza Strip by Israel's retaliatory strikes, with 5,339 more having been wounded.

During the virtual conference, Lt Col Lerner said there are still active Hamas fighters within the Israeli territory but the government has mobilized over 300,000 reservists including the international defense community who are working hard to regain control of the situation.

He said the fighters launched over 5,000 missiles and rockets within the Israeli territory causing massive destruction.

“For now we are working to restore our defence capabilities and ensure that in the future, Hamas is not able to attack us again. We shall review what happened in both areas of infiltration including how our military was overrun by the fighters and take appropriate action to prevent future incidences,” said Lt Col Lerner.

According to him, Israel has intensified its offensive activities in Gaza with the intention of destroying Hamas's capacity to attack.

Police officers evacuate a woman and a child from a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, October 7, 2023. [AP photo]

“Our offensive is targeting both government and the fighter’s operational areas. We are also targeting their hideouts, rocket and missile command positions including any physical infrastructure that is critical for them to be able to attack us,” he said.

Lt Col Lerner said the mobilized groups include ground, airforce, navy and special forces that have been deployed in strategic positions including Kibbutz, Lebanon border and Hezbollah.

The spokesman said for the last 18 years the Gaza Strip has been under the control of Hamas in support of Palestine turning it into a center of the conflict.

He said in collaboration, the Hamas group, Islamic Jihads and Iraq have taken advantage of the conflicts in Gaza to attack Israel while using civilians as human shields.

“We have no intention to involve civilians in times of conflict but in this scenario, our move has been necessitated by the fact that our enemies are using the civilians as human shield,” said Lt Col Lerner.

So far, Israeli forces have tightened their longstanding blockade of Gaza, sealing it off and vowing that nothing will go in or out, including water, food, medicine, gas or electricity.

Lt Col Lerner’s sentiments were echoed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen who said the government was working round the clock to rescue 150 Israelis being held as hostages by the Hamas.

“We want the international community to understand that we are facing a long and tough war started by the Hamas group. We have no other option but to do what it takes to win, and definitely they will pay a huge price,” the Minister said.

While dismissing reports that the Israeli government was contemplating negotiations for the release of the hostages, Cohen said, “This is not a time for negotiations, we have active fighters still within our territory killing and butchering our people, our aim is to move swiftly and evacuate those on the frontline.”