Death toll leaps to 600, some hostages freed while others remain as Hamas attack on Israel enters 2nd day

By JTA Staff

This is a developing story.

(JTA) — As dawn broke in Israel Sunday, the contours of the previous 24 hours of violence following a broad attack by Hamas were still coming into devastating focus.

The estimated death toll leaped from 300 to 600 on Sunday, and the names and horrifying stories of those who had been murdered in their homes and communities are beginning to emerge.

Some military breakthroughs were announced, including the freeing of dozens hostages who had been held at Kibbutz Beeri, and of hostages held in a home in the city of Ofakim. But Hamas fighters remained in Israel and an untold number of communities remained besieged. One small town said 15 of its residents had been killed.

Videos showed Israeli civilians held hostage, both in Israel and in Gaza, the Palestinian territory that Hamas controls. Some showed parents trying to comfort their small children despite their circumstances. At least one video circulating appeared to show an Israeli child being held captive.

Anguished parents and relatives posted on social media seeking information about loved ones who remain missing. A widely circulating collage showed dozens of young adults who had been attending an outdoor party in the desert near Gaza that was attacked early; many are presumed dead. Relatives of the missing were being asked to provide DNA samples that could be used in identification.

The names of soldiers who had fallen in combat were also starting to emerge, even as what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised would be a “prolonged and powerful campaign” was just getting underway. The commander of a major infantry brigade was killed, as were an undisclosed number of other soldiers.

Meanwhile, fears were roiling that a second front could open in the north, where Hezbollah, which like Hamas is understood to be a proxy of Iran, operates in Lebanon. Amir Tibon, a Haaretz journalist whose own family was rescued late Saturday from their besieged kibbutz by a battalion including his father, a retired general, cautioned on X that Israelis in the north should prepare themselves for conflict. “We were not prepared properly,” he wrote. “Don’t make this mistake.”

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