Israeli security and rescue forces at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit buildings and cars in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, Oct. 9, 2023. (Liron Moldovan/Flash90)
By Philissa Cramer
This story will be updated.
(JTA) — A massive military operation is underway to place Gaza under a “complete siege,” Israel’s defense minister said on Monday, 48 hours after a surprise attack by Hamas left 900 Israelis dead, thousands wounded and more than 100 captive in Gaza.
“We are going to change the Middle East,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, according to Israeli media. He reportedly told President Joe Biden that Israeli troops “have to go in” to Gaza.
Hamas responded on Monday by vowing to execute hostages if Israel attacks civilians, according to Haaretz.
Meanwhile, a second front in the war has threatened to open up and injuries are being reported across Israel. On Monday, a number of gunmen entered Israel’s north from Lebanon, where the Hezbollah terror group is based — though the Islamic Jihad terror group, which is based in Gaza, has claimed responsibility for the incursion. The attackers injured six people and were killed by Israeli forces.
Hezbollah, which like Hamas is affiliated with Iran, shot missiles at Israel on Sunday. Residents of the area have been told to stay in their homes.
On Monday afternoon, three people were injured when a missile hit Jerusalem.
The international death toll is also emerging: At least nine U.S. citizens are among the dead. In addition, 10 Nepali citizens have been reported killed, and 11 Thai nationals have been taken captive by Hamas. Victims have ties to other countries as well including Argentina, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
After two days of terror and fighting, Israel had regained control of the towns on its side of the Gaza border. But it appeared that Hamas fighters could remain inside Israel, and the towns’ residents had been evacuated, leaving behind devastation including many neighbors who had been killed. Rockets continued to target large portions of Israel, sending residents into bomb shelters as sirens sounded frequently.
Israel was already striking some targets inside Gaza, the Palestinian territory that Hamas controls. But military leaders said they planned a much more extensive response.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said following a military briefing in the country’s south. “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”
Some leaders were calling for a ground invasion, and more than 300,000 Israeli reservists have been called to duty, the largest mobilization in the country’s history. Volunteer efforts were underway to provide food, clothing and essential supplies to the troops.
Reuters was reporting Qatar-brokered talks for an exchange of the women and children taken captive in Gaza in exchange for 36 Palestinian women and children held by Israel. Israel denied the reports. Families of the missing in Israel continued to beseech the public and officials for aid for their loved ones.