(JNS) — Hamas claimed on Saturday to have abducted 53 Israelis and taken them to the Gaza Strip after dispatching dozens of terrorists into the Jewish state as part of a major attack.
Unconfirmed footage circulating online showed alleged Hamas terrorists ushering numerous Israelis into Gaza.
A father interviewed by Channel 12 said his two daughters, aged 3 and 5, were missing and feared kidnapped.
There were also unconfirmed reports that more than a dozen Nepalese nationals, working in Israel, were abducted and taken to Gaza.
Channel 13 reported late Saturday afternoon that Israel has confirmed that at least 11 people have been taken hostage in the Hamas-ruled enclave.
The Israel Defense Forces subsequently said that civilians and soldiers had been taken to Gaza without giving a number.
Hamas killed at least 200 Israelis on Saturday amid an ongoing offensive in which the Palestinian terrorist group has fired more than 3,000 rockets.
Around 5:30 p.m., 11 hours into the terrorist attacks, there were still exchanges of fire at 22 locations inside Israel.
Active combat between Israeli security forces and Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
There were also reports of a hostage situation in Ofakim, some 12 miles from the Gaza border.
More than 1,100 Israelis were evacuated to hospitals across the country, the largest number to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva and many to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
‘All citizens to unite’
The Security Cabinet met at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv for approximately two hours. The full Cabinet was set to meet at 6 p.m. to decide on the way forward.
“Since this morning, the State of Israel has been at war. Our first objective is to clear out the hostile forces that infiltrated our territory and restore the security and quiet to the communities that have been attacked,” Netanyahu said at the start of the Security Cabinet session.
“The second objective, at the same time, is to exact an immense price from the enemy, within the Gaza Strip as well. The third objective is to reinforce other fronts so that nobody should mistakenly join this war.
“We are at war. In war, one needs to be level-headed. I call on all citizens of Israel to unite in order to achieve our highest goal—victory in the war,” said the premier.
In response, the Israel Air Force launched “Operation Swords of Iron,” initially striking 17 Hamas “military” compounds and four operational headquarters in Gaza.
The IDF was ordered to a “state of war readiness” and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant authorized the call-up of reserve troops.
He also announced a “special security situation” within 80 kilometers of the Gaza Strip, enabling the IDF to close relevant sites and impose safety restrictions on the population.