Flames and smoke billow during Israeli strikes in Gaza, October 9, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Israel's military scoured the country's south for Hamas fighters and guarded breaches in its border fence with tanks on Monday, as it pounded the Gaza Strip from the air and mustered for a campaign its prime minister said would destroy “the military and governing capabilities” of the militant group.

More than two days after Hamas launched its unprecedented incursion from Gaza, the military said the fighting had largely died down for now. The attack caught Israel's vaunted military and intelligence apparatus completely off guard , bringing heavy battles to its streets for the first time in decades. Israel formally declared war on Sunday , portending greater fighting ahead, and a possible ground assault into Gaza — a move that in the past has brought intensified casualties. Palestinian militants continued firing barrages of rockets, setting off air raid sirens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Civilians are already paying a high price. Around 1,000 people have been killed in Israel — a staggering toll by the scale of its recent conflicts. Nearly 600 have been killed in Gaza, a tiny, impoverished enclave of 2.3 million Palestinians bordering Israel and Egypt. Palestinian militant groups claimed to be holding over 130 captives from the Israeli side. They also said 2,150 Israelis had been wounded in the attack, which was launched on Saturday morning.

A missile explodes in Gaza City during an Israeli air strike. Image Credit: AFP

Israel's Netanyahu calls for 'national unity government'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called on Israel's opposition to form a government of national unity as the country reeled under a deadly assault by Palestinian militant group Hamas. "I call on opposition leaders to immediately form an emergency government of national unity without any preconditions," Netanyahu said in a televised speech.

UN chief 'deeply distressed' by planned Israeli siege of Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he was "deeply distressed" by an announcement that Israel will initiate a complete siege of the Gaza Strip following an attack by the Palestinian militants group Hamas over the weekend.

"I am deeply distressed by today's announcement that Israel will initiate a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, nothing allowed in no electricity, food, or fuel," Guterres said.

The Israeli military said it had called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis and prompted retaliatory Israeli air strikes.

Guterres said the situation in Gaza was "extremely dire" before the surprise assault by the militant group, adding that it will "only deteriorate exponentially." While noting that medical equipment, food and other humanitarian supplies and personnel are needed, Guterres said that relief and entry of essential supplies into the area must be facilitated.

"I urge all sides and the relevant parties to allow United Nations access to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians trapped and helpless in the Gaza Strip," he said while appealing to the international community to mobilize immediate humanitarian support.

Hamas armed wing threatens to kill captives if Israel continues attacks without warning

Hamas' armed wing said on Monday it will begin executing an Israeli civilian captive in return for any new Israeli bombing of civilian houses without pre-warning.

Hamas armed wing spokesman Abu Ubaida said they have been acting in accordance with Islamic instructions by keeping the Israeli captives safe and sound, blaming the intended move on Israel's stepped-up bombing and killing of civilians inside their homes in air strikes without warning them.

German, French, US, British leaders to hold talks tonight on Israel: Scholz

Palestinians remove a dead body from the rubble of a building after an Israeli airstrike in Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AP

EU suspends development aid payments to Palestinians

The EU has halted development aid payments to the Palestinians and is placing 691 million euros ($728 million) of support "under review" after the Hamas assault on Israel, Brussels said Monday.

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A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike.

"The scale of terror and brutality against Israel and its people is a turning point. There can be no business as usual," European Union Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi posted on social media.

"As the biggest donor of the Palestinians, the European Commission is putting its full development portfolio under review, worth a total of EUR 691m," he added, in a message confirmed as accurate by a commission spokesman.

Varhelyi said the move meant "all payments immediately suspended. All projects put under review. All new budget proposals, including for 2023 postponed until further notice. Comprehensive assessment of the whole portfolio."

EU foreign ministers are to hold emergency talks Tuesday on the situation in Israel and Gaza after the unprecedented attack by Hamas Islamist militants.

"Incitement to hatred, violence and glorification of terror have poisoned the minds of too many," Varhelyi said. "We need action and we need it now."

Arab foreign ministers to meet Wednesday on Gaza: Arab League

'Currently no chance' of prisoner swap with Israel: Hamas official

Palestinian militant group Hamas is not open to negotiating a prisoner exchange with Israel during hostilities, a member of the militants' political office in Doha said Monday. "The military operation is still continuing... therefore there is currently no chance for negotiation on the issue of prisoners or anything else," Hossam Badran, a Hamas official, told AFP.

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Israeli soldiers scan an area while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, near Sderot, southern Israel. Image Credit: Reuters

Foreigners killed, missing or abducted in Hamas attack

Dozens of foreigners have been killed, injured or taken hostage during a surprise attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas Saturday that has left 700 people dead, mostly Israelis.

Many of the missing foreigners were at a desert music festival, where scores of revellers were massacred.

Here is what we know so far:

Thailand: 12 dead, 11 hostages

Twelve Thai labourers were killed, eight were wounded and 11 were taken captive, foreign ministry spokeswoman Kanchana Patarachoke said Monday.

Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said there were around 5,000 Thai labourers working in the areas hit by fighting who were being moved to safety.

Nepal: 10 dead

Ten citizens of Nepal were killed in Kibbutz Alumin, one of the flashpoints of the Hamas assault, the Himalayan republic's embassy in Tel Aviv said on Sunday.

Four others were being treated in hospital while a search was underway for a fifth person, the embassy added.

Kibbutz Alumim was hosting 17 students at the time of the attack.

US: 4 dead, 'toll will rise'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was trying to verify reports that "several" Americans were killed and others were missing.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said on Sunday that at least four had been killed, adding: "We know the toll will rise."

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, said on Sunday he understood that a number of Americans had been taken hostage but had no details.

Ukraine: 2 dead 

Two Ukrainian women who had been living in Israel for a long time were killed, Ukraine's foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Sunday.

France: 1 dead, several missing

A French woman was killed and several others are missing, the French government said on Sunday

An MP representing French nationals overseas, Meyer Habib, said on Monday that "at least eight" French people had been killed, captured or were missing.

The hostages may have included a 26-year-old man from Bordeaux who was at the rave, he said.

UK: 1 dead, 1 missing

Jake Marlowe, 26, who moved to Israel from Britain two years ago, is believed to have been taken hostage while providing security at the music festival.

His mother Lisa told the Jewish News site that he called her "to say all these rockets were flying over," and then later to tell her "signal very bad, everything OK, will keep you updated I promise you".

Israel's ambassador to Britain said there was one British citizen in Gaza, without naming the person.

A British man who was serving in the Israeli army, Nathanel Young, 20, also died in fighting with Hamas, his family said on Sunday.

Canada: reports of 1 dead, 2 missing

The Canadian government said on Sunday that it was trying to confirm reports that one Canadian had died and two others were missing.

Cambodia: 1 dead

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Manet said a Cambodian student was killed.

Germany: several hostages

Several dual German-Israeli nationals were kidnapped, a German foreign ministry source said Sunday.

The mother of 22-year-old Shani Louk, told news outlet Der Spiegel she recognised her daughter in videos circulating online of a half-naked woman lying face down in the back of a pick-up truck in Gaza with armed men seated around her.

Ricarda Louk told Spiegel that her daughter had been at the rave.

Brazil: 3 missing, one injured

Brazil's foreign ministry said on Sunday that three dual Brazilian-Israeli nationals were missing after attending the music festival and a fourth was being treated in hospital.

Paraguay: 2 missing

Two Paraguayan nationals who had been living in Israel are missing, Paraguay's government said, without giving details.

Paraguayan media, including La Nacion de Asuncion, said a couple had been killed.

Mexico: 2 hostages

Mexico's Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that two Mexicans, one man and one woman, had been taken hostage, without giving further details.

Panama: 1 missing

Panama's government said one of its nationals, Daryelis Denises Saez Batista, was missing.

Ireland: 1 missing

An Irish-Israeli woman has been confirmed missing by the Irish government.

Local media named her as 22-year-old Kim Damti, who was attending the music festival.

In the last phone call she made on Saturday morning she was running with a friend towards a car, the Irish Times newspaper reported.

Russia says Palestinian state 'most reliable' solution

Russia said Monday that creating a Palestinian state is the "most reliable" solution for peace and that fighting terrorism alone would not ensure security.

Creating a "Palestinian state that would live side by side with the most reliable path to solve (the conflict)," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. "We cannot agree with those who say that security can only be ensured through a fight with terrorism".

Israel-Hamas War

'Complete siege' on Gaza

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant Monday ordered a "complete siege" on the Gaza Strip as the military pounded the Palestinian enclave with air strikes.

"We are putting a complete siege on Gaza... No electricity, no food, no water, no gas - it's all closed," Gallant said in a video statement, referring to the crowded enclave home to 2.3 people.

Israel army says it is in 'control' of attacked areas

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Israel continued to battle Hamas fighters. Image Credit: AFP

Israel's army declared on Monday that its forces were in "full control of communities" in its southern territory near Gaza, two days after Hamas militants launched a suprise attack there.

"We are in full control of the communities," military spokesman Daniel Hagari told journalists, adding however that there still might be "terrorists" in the area.

More than 123,000 people displaced in Gaza

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Over 123,538 people, have been internally displaced in Gaza. Image Credit: Reuters

More than 123,000 people have been displaced in the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of the conflict between Palestinian militants and Israel, the United Nations said Monday.

"Over 123,538 people, have been internally displaced in Gaza, mostly due to fear, protection concerns and the destruction of their homes," said the UN's humanitarian agency, OCHA, with more than 73,000 sheltering in schools.

Israeli forces still fighting Hamas militants inside Israel

Fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas Palestinian militants was ongoing Monday in seven to eight locations around the Gaza Strip inside Israel, the army said.

"We're still fighting. There are between seven to eight open places around Gaza (where) we have still warriors fighting terrorists," military spokesman Richard Hecht told reporters, two days after the Palestinian Islamist group launched a surprise attack on Israel.

"We thought by yesterday we would have full control. I hope we will by the end of the day."

During the night Israel carried out more than 500 air and artillery strikes targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups in the coastal enclave.

Israel strikes over '500 Hamas targets' overnight

Israeli air strikes and artillery shelling struck more than 500 targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups in the Gaza Strip overnight, the Israeli military said Monday.

"Overnight IDF (Israeli army) fighter jets, helicopters, aircraft and artillery struck over 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip," the military said in a statement.

French nationals killed, missing or hostages in Hamas attack

At least eight French nationals were missing, confirmed dead or taken hostage after Hamas's weekend attack on Israel, a lawmaker said Monday.

Paris "should hold Hamas directly responsible for (hostages') safety and use every means to secure their release," conservative MP Meyer Habib, who represents French people living abroad in a swathe of Mediterranean countries including Israel, wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Habib added that he had spoken to the father of 26-year-old Avidan T. from Bordeaux, who lives in Israel.

The father "confirmed to me that, as we feared, this young Frenchman... has indeed been taken hostage," he wrote.

Habib had posted Sunday that Avidan was one of the revellers at a desert rave in southern Israel hit in a Hamas attack that killed as many as 250 people.

France's foreign ministry said late Sunday that one Frenchwoman had been killed in the Hamas attack on Israel, adding that it had been unable to locate several more nationals.

Americans killed in Hamas attacks

A number of Americans were killed in the surprise attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a US official confirmed on Sunday, without giving further details.

"We can confirm the deaths of several US citizens," a spokesperson for the US National Security Council said. "We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and to the families of all those affected."

US giving Israel all the help it needs

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says senators were briefed by senior State Department and Pentagon officials and given assurances that the United States was giving Israel “everything they need.”

“I asked the representatives of our Defense Department if they are giving Israel everything they need, and I was heartened that they said yes and that they are surging support,” Schumer said in a statement after Sunday evening’s unclassified briefing.

“I asked them if they have denied any requests that Israel has made, and they said no. I urged them to ensure Israel has everything it needs to protect itself, and reiterated that the Senate stands ready to deliver on additional needs,” he said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced earlier Sunday that the U.S. was sending a host of military ships and aircraft to the region. He also said it was providing the Israeli defense forces with additional equipment, including munitions.

12 Thais killed in Israel-Gaza violence

Twelve Thais have been killed in the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants, the kingdom's government said Monday as it prepared a plan to evacuate its citizens.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Kanchana Patarachoke said the Thai embassy in Israel learned of the deaths from the victims' employers.

Abducted to Gaza

Shock and dismay gripped Israel after at least 100 citizens were captured by Hamas and abducted into Gaza, with images circulating on social media of bloodied hostages.

Yifat Zailer, 37, said she was horrified to see online video footage from Gaza that showed her cousin and the woman's children, aged nine months and three years.

"That's the only confirmation we have," she told AFP, her voice breaking with emotion, and adding there was no information on her cousin's husband or her elderly parents.

"After the army took control of the kibbutz, they weren't at home," she said. "We assume they were kidnapped ... We want to know what their condition is, we want them to return safe. They're innocent civilians."

Israel also came under attack from the north when Lebanon's Hezbollah launched guided missiles and artillery shells Sunday "in solidarity" with the unprecedented Hamas offensive, without causing any casualties.

Israel responded with artillery strikes across the UN-patrolled border.

"We recommend Hezbollah not to come into this," said army spokesman Richard Hecht. "If they come, we are ready."

Israel was stunned when Hamas launched their multi-pronged offensive on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, with at least 3,000 rockets raining down as fighters infiltrated towns and kibbutz communities and stormed an outdoor rave where many revellers were shot dead.

Panicked Israelis hiding in their homes told reporters that militants were going door to door and shooting civilians or dragging them away.

'No respite'

Western capitals have condemned the attack by Hamas, which Washington and Brussels consider a terrorist group.

Israel's foes have praised the assault, including Iran whose President Ebrahim Raisi voiced support when he spoke with the leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group.

In the Egyptian city of Alexandria a police officer opened fire "at random" on Israeli tourists Sunday, killing two of them and their Egyptian guide before he was arrested.

Netanyahu - who leads a hard-right coalition government but has received pledges of support from political opponents - has vowed to turn Hamas hideouts "to rubble" and urged Palestinians there to flee.

"We are embarking on a long and difficult war that was forced on us by a murderous Hamas attack," Netanyahu wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israeli attacks have reduced several Gaza residential towers to rubble and destroyed a mosque in Gaza's Khan Yunis as well as the central bank.

Schools were closed and many flights cancelled as the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's main TA-35 index fell 6.47 percent and UEFA postponed an Israel-Switzerland Euro 2024 qualifier match.

'We will not give up'

Hamas has labelled its attack "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood" and called on "resistance fighters in the West Bank" and "Arab and Islamic nations" to join the battle.

Its attack came half a century after the outbreak of the 1973 conflict called the Yom Kippur War in Israel, sparking bitter recriminations for what was widely seen as an enormous intelligence failure.

"There was a very bad failure here," said Sderot resident Yaakov Shoshani, 70. "The Yom Kippur War was small compared to it, and I was a soldier in the Yom Kippur War."

He recalled the terror of the attack on their town near Gaza.

"I held a kitchen knife and a large screwdriver, and I told my wife that, if something happens, to make sure to read the Kaddish (prayer) over me, if you stay alive," he said. "And so we stayed close to each other at home, shut everything and turned off the lights."

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh has predicted "victory" and vowed to press ahead with "the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons".

An Israeli survivor of the attack on Sderot, Yitzhak, 67, said he now expected the army to "conquer Gaza house by house, clean the area there properly, and not leave Gaza until they get the very last rocket out of the ground."

Many Gaza residents voiced defiance.

"We will not give up, and we are here to stay," said Mohammed Saq Allah, 23. "This is our land, and we will not abandon our land."