Death toll rises past 1,500 as Israeli-Hamas conflict nears end of 3rd day

A plume of fire and smoke rises in the southern Gaza Strip after an Israeli strike on Monday. The combined death toll in the conflict rose past 1,500 on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
1 of 6 | A plume of fire and smoke rises in the southern Gaza Strip after an Israeli strike on Monday. The combined death toll in the conflict rose past 1,500 on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- The combined death toll in the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas surpassed 1,500 on Monday as the conflict neared the end of its third day, according to estimates on both sides.

At least 900 people in Israel have been killed in the unprecedented air and ground attacks launched by Hamas, according to an official update issued to Israeli media on Monday evening.


Meanwhile, the Gaza health ministry stated at least 687 people have been killed by Israeli strikes in the enclave and 3,726 others wounded.

The Palestinian officials said those killed in Gaza included 40 children and 105 women.

The grim casualty figures were updated as confirmation came that more than 260 of the Israeli victims were young people who were slain at an outdoor music festival being held in southern Israel.


Palestinian gunmen attacked the all-night Supernova event in Re'im, Israel, near the Gaza Strip, early on Saturday, mowing down festival-goers in chaotic scenes of massacre, eyewitnesses and people who escaped told Israel's Channel 12.

One survivor, Gili Yoskovich, told the BBC he escaped death by hiding in an orchard.

"They were going tree by tree and shooting," he said. "I saw people were dying all around. I was very quiet. I didn't cry, I didn't do anything."

The Israeli search and rescue service service Zaka confirmed to media outlets that 260 bodies were recovered from the event site.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog condemned the carnage inflicted on civilians by Hamas' surprise attack and its taking of hostages in a video statement issued late Monday.

"Not since the Holocaust have so many Jews been killed in one day," he said. "And not since the Holocaust have we witnessed scenes of Jewish women and children, grandparents and even Holocaust survivors being herded into trucks and taken into captivity."

Hamas, he declared, had "imported, adopted and replicated the savagery of ISIS, entering civilian homes on a Holy Day, murdering in cold blood whole families."

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said late Sunday in a Facebook Live update that "for the first time in our history" dozens of Israelis have been taken hostage in Gaza.


Meanwhile, the conflict showed further signs of spreading to Israel's northern border as Israeli Defense Forces and Lebanon-based militants from Hezbollah exchanged fire late on Monday.

"In response to the launches detected a short time ago from Lebanese territory towards Israeli territory, the IDF forces are now responding with artillery fire," the IDF said in a social media post.

The IDF said there were no casualties from the initial artillery fire from Lebanon. Earlier. the Israeli military said a combat helicopter and aircraft were dispatched to the Lebanese border after a "number of terrorists" were identified who had crossed into Israeli territory.

The forces "exchanged fire with them, during which they killed two of them," the IDF said. One of them escaped back to Lebanese territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call for the formation of an emergency unity government to deal with the crisis.

"The people are united and now the leadership needs to unite," he said in a statement. "We haven't seen atrocities of the kind Hamas is committing since the atrocities of the Islamic State. We always knew who Hamas was. Hamas is the Islamic State."

"Airstrikes against Hamas in Gaza are just the beginning," the prime minister said, adding, "We will do everything for Israelis held captive in Gaza."


Israeli forces said they had hit more than 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza overnight Sunday into Monday morning.

Seven Hamas operational headquarters and one operated by Islamic Jihad were among the targets destroyed overnight, they said, adding several high-rise buildings were razed and tunnels were obliterated.

"The IDF will continue to attack with force the Gaza Strip and deal fatal damage to the terrorist organizations," the Israeli military said in a statement.

Israel launched its war against Hamas after the militant group conducted a surprise, multi-pronged attack from Gaza, a Palestinian enclave that borders Israel to the east and north, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and Egypt to the south.

Hamas has been the de facto government of Gaza since ousting the Palestinian Authority in 2007, and Israel holds it responsible for all aggression originating from the strip of territory.

Israeli officials said Hamas began its attack at about 6:30 a.m. local time Saturday with a barrage of some 2,000 rockets launched from Gaza at Israel followed by militants infiltrating northwards and eastwards killing civilians and military personnel and taking hostages.

Mohammad Deif, commander of Hamas' military wing, said in a recorded statement that the attack was to end Israel's "rampaging without accountability."


Deif said it was in response to Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and recent Israeli police raids on Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In response to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were at war, with the first phase of destroying "enemy forces that infiltrated our territory" nearing its end on Sunday and a second offensive phase having begun.

The United States confirmed Monday that at least nine Americans have been killed in a statement to media outlets.

U.S. officials said there are reports Americans are among those kidnapped.

The Israeli Air Force said early Monday its warplanes had hit approximately 1,200 targets, including 21 high-rise buildings.

It said that the IDF estimates "there are over 400 terrorists killed in the Gaza Strip, and hundreds more terrorists killed in the territory of the state of Israel."

"This is alongside [taking] dozens of prisoners," it said, while warning that "the IDF will continue to carry out more intense and significant attacks throughout the Gaza Strip."

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