The Israeli death toll surpassed 1,200 amid hundreds of funerals Wednesday while desperation swept across Gaza as Tel Aviv’s overwhelming response to the brutal attack by Hamas left neighborhoods destroyed, homes dark and hospitals low on desperately needed medical supplies.
Israeli soldiers retaking communities near the Gaza border encountered streets littered with the bodies of civilians, including women and children. The Israeli health ministry said the death toll is likely to increase amid continued fighting and the discovery of more bodies in the settlements.
Palestinian officials say more than 1,000 militants and citizens in Gaza have been killed and more than 5,000 wounded. Israeli rockets smashed into neighborhoods for a fifth day Wednesday, destroying homes and infrastructure.
The territory, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, faced the grim prospects of a complete blackout and limited supplies of food and water. The head of Gaza’s Energy Authority told Al Jazeera Mubasher the enclave’s only power plant ran out of fuel Wednesday. The U.N.’s World Health Organization said supplies pre-positioned at hospitals were depleted.
“We will not allow a reality in which Israeli children are murdered,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a meeting with soldiers. “I have removed every restriction. We will eliminate anyone who fights us, and use every measure at our disposal.”
Hamas denied targeting children and issued a statement condemning Western media for “promoting the Israeli occupation’s propaganda, which is full of lies and fabrications, as an attempt to cover up the crimes and massacres committed by the Israeli occupation around the clock.”
Israel-Hamas War newsletter: Sign up to get the latest news and analysis from USA TODAY into your inbox.
∎ The Israel government, under intense public pressure to eradicate Hamas, has mobilized 360,000 reservists and could be poised to launch a ground offensive into Gaza.
∎ Israeli forces exchanged gunfire over Israel’s northern borders with militants in Lebanon and Syria amid concerns of an expanded regional conflict.
EU will continue to financially support Palestinians
EU foreign ministers, meeting in a teleconference, agreed overwhelmingly to continue financial support for Palestinians, said Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Borrell cited a “clear distinction” between Hamas and Palestinian Authority, which controls the smaller West Bank enclave. Hamas is a terrorist organization while the Palestinian Authority is an EU partner, he said.
“Not all the Palestinian people are terrorists,” Borrell said. “So a collective punishment against all Palestinians will be unfair and unproductive. It will be against our interests and the interest of the peace.”
The ministers also reiterated long-term commitment to a political solution based on creation of a free Palestinian state. Israel has balked at any plan that would allow Palestinians to possess their own military.
EU warns Musk to halt war ‘disinformation’ on X
The European Commission warned Elon Musk that X, formerly known as Twitter, could face penalties if it does not take action against “illegal content and disinformation” since Hamas’ attack on Israel. A letter from Thierry Breton, European commissioner for the internal market, said the company may be non-compliant of “very precise obligations regarding content moderation” in Europe’s new social media laws. The company could be fined up to 6% of its global revenue under EU rules.
In response to the letter, Musk wrote on X, “Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports. Please list the violations you allude to on 𝕏, so that that the public can see them.”
Breton replied: “You are well aware of your users’ — and authorities’— reports on fake content and glorification of violence. Up to you to demonstrate that you walk the talk.”
− Christopher Cann
Israeli airstrikes late Tuesday struck the family house of Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, killing his father, brother and at least two other relatives in the southern town of Khan Younis, senior Hamas official Bassem Naim said. Deif has never been seen in public and Israeli authorities say they don’t know where he is.
Americans struggle to get home from war zone
The struggle to come home – and the fear for loved ones left behind in the deadly war zones of Gaza and Israel – is very real for many Americans as the world watches the violence abroad unfold.
The U.S. citizens longing to return to America include several people from church groups, including those in Naples, Florida, visiting Jerusalem for religious reasons, Salt Lake City-based Palestinian-Americans visiting family members and New Jersey Jewish residents who were celebrating the Simchat Torah holiday. They told the USA TODAY Network that their trips turned from a tranquil, joyous crusade away from home into a catastrophic nightmare from which they needed to swiftly escape.
Mark Schwartz, a councilman and volunteer firefighter in Teaneck, New Jersey, had traveled to Israel with friends for Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday, with other Jewish people from New Jersey.
− Kayla Jimenez
Up to 1,000 Hamas fighters stormed across the Israeli border by land and sea beginning at daybreak Saturday in an attack that caught Israel’s military off guard.
Hamas says the assault was a response to activity at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem that is the third holiest site in Islam. The site, which is also located on the holiest site for Jews − who refer to it as the Temple Mount − has long been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli security services routinely raid the compound.
Bu Hamas leaders also say they were pushed to attack because of unrelenting Israeli crackdowns on militants in the West Bank, continued construction of settlements − which the international community considers to be illegal − thousands of prisoners being held in Israeli jails and Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Israel countered by declaring war against Hamas and ordered its military to undertake take a “complete siege” of Gaza.
Online hate surges:Why everyone is blaming social media.
What is Hamas?
Hamas – an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, or the Islamic resistance movement – was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by a Palestinian activist connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997. Several other nations also consider it a terrorist organization.
In 2006, Hamas won parliamentary elections, and in 2007 the group violently seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, which was controlled by the rival Fatah movement that still governs the West Bank. There have been no elections since. The group calls for establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state that would replace the current state of Israel and believes in the use of violence to carry out the destruction of Israel.
Hamas receives financial, material and logistical support from Iran, though so far, international leaders, including in Israel, have said there is no evidence that Iran was directly involved in Hamas’ attack.
How large is the Gaza Strip?
Gaza, or the Gaza Strip, is a densely populated Palestinian exclave of about 2.3 million people. The narrow strip of land − about 150 square miles, or less than half the size of New York City − is about 25 miles long and six miles wide. Gaza shares a northern and eastern border with Israel and a southwestern border with Egypt while its western side abuts the Mediterranean Sea.
Who controls the Gaza Strip?
Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections and in 2007 seized control of the Gaza Strip from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority, controlled by the rival Fatah movement, administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hamas has fought four wars against Israel since taking power.