In an act of unprecedented violence, the festival became one of the first targets of Palestinian gunmen who crossed into Israel in the biggest attack on the country in decades. At the rave, Israeli emergency services collected 260 bodies, local media reported. On Monday, the Israeli military announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists and the imposition of a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip, signaling the possibility of a ground assault in response to the devastating weekend attack by Hamas gunmen.
After hours of intense bombing by Israeli planes, Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, announced that it would execute an Israeli prisoner for every Israeli bombing of a civilian house without warning.
Inside Israel, Palestinian fighters remained entrenched in several locations, two days after killing hundreds of Israelis and kidnapping dozens of hostages in an attack that ended Israel’s reputation for invulnerability.
Israeli television channels reported that the death toll from the Hamas attack had risen to 900, with at least 2,600 injured. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli airstrikes on the blockaded enclave since Saturday.
Among the dead were citizens of Italy, Ukraine, and the United States. President Joe Biden announced on Monday that at least 11 Americans had died.
Hamas declared that it was acting in accordance with Islam by keeping Israeli prisoners safe, but issued the threat to kill civilians and spread it.
In Gaza, as Israel carried out intense retaliatory attacks, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant drew international condemnation by announcing a stricter blockade to prevent food and fuel from reaching the strip, home to 2.3 million people.
“Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Israeli airstrikes intensified as night fell, with witnesses reporting that several Hamas security headquarters and ministries were hit. The attacks destroyed some roads and homes.
Israel also bombed the headquarters of the Palestinian telecommunications company, which could affect landline, internet, and mobile phone services.
As it rained, explosions and lightning lit up the sky, and the sound of shelling mixed with the thunder.
In another sign of Israel’s rapid shift into a state of war, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud cabinet said they could form a national unity government along with opposition leaders within hours.
Netanyahu told mayors of southern cities affected by Saturday’s surprise attack that Israel’s response “will change the Middle East.”
In the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, men climbed a crushed building to pull the tiny body of a baby from the rubble, carrying it down through the crowds among the smoking remains of the bombed buildings.
That airstrike killed and injured dozens, according to the territory’s Ministry of Health.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at least 137,000 people were taking refuge with UNRWA, the UN agency that provides essential services to Palestinians.
The possibility of the fighting spreading to other areas has alarmed the region. Israeli troops “killed several armed suspects who infiltrated Israeli territory from Lebanese territory,” the army said, adding that helicopters “are currently attacking in the area.”
The Lebanese armed group Hezbollah fired a volley of rockets into northern Israel on Monday in response to the deaths of at least three of its members in an Israeli bombing in Lebanon.
In southern Israel, the scene of the Hamas attack, Israel’s chief military spokesman said troops had regained control of communities inside Israel that had been overrun, but isolated clashes continued as some gunmen remained active.
The shocking images of the bodies of hundreds of Israelis lying in city streets, murdered at an outdoor dance party, and kidnapped from their homes are unprecedented in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.