Hamas is holding “between 100 and 150” people hostage in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said late Monday — as Israel regained control over the Gaza border and conducted “massive air strikes” in the Palestinian territory.
“I think it’s an unprecedented number,” Gilad Erdan told CNN, referring to the hostages. But, he added: “It’s not going to stop us from doing what we need to do in order to secure the future of Israel.”
“Our main commitment is to obliterate [Hamas] terrorist infrastructure,” the ambassador said.
Israel has launched a major military offensive against Hamas on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the armed Palestinian group’s surprise incursion into several locations in Israel on Saturday, during which they killed hundreds of civilians.
Israel’s military shelled “over 200 targets” in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Tuesday, while Richard Hecht, spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said the country’s forces had “more or less restored control over the border” with Gaza.
“Since last night we know that no one came in … but infiltrations can still happen,” the spokesperson told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday, adding that Israeli forces had recovered “approximately 1,500 bodies” of Hamas fighters around the Palestinian territory.
Hecht also said Gaza’s civilian parliament and ministries were considered legitimate targets: “If there’s a gunman firing rockets from there, it turns into a military target.”
Israel’s air strikes across the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, have killed 704 people and wounded 3,900, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
After Israel’s government officially declared war on Sunday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing “mighty vengeance” against Hamas, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip on Monday.
Around 300,000 reservists — close to two-thirds of the country’s part-time soldiers, on which Israeli forces are heavily reliant — have been called to join the IDF.
Israel also sent tens of thousands of additional troops to its northern border with Lebanon “in anticipation of a Hezbollah attack,” an IDF spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday, after the Lebanese militant group and political party claimed responsibility for targeting several locations on Israel’s territory in the past few days.