In the midst of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, journalist Allan Sorensen, Middle East Correspondent for Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, provides daily dispatches offering crucial insights and gripping first-hand accounts from the war-torn region.
The aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel has unveiled the sheer scale of tragedy faced by the nation. If Saturday left Israel in a state of national shock, the collective trauma, grief, and anger of the people erupted with even greater intensity on Sunday.
From the early hours of Sunday, the death toll continued to climb, with reports of relentless shootings in Israeli border towns confirming that the surprise attack from the previous day was ongoing.
As of now, Israel has recorded 700 casualties, with 2,300 individuals sustaining various degrees of wounds. These numbers are anticipated to rise further as Israeli authorities still grapple with gaining a complete overview of the situation along the Gaza border. The process of collecting and identifying bodies is underway, carried out using large trucks.
Despite initial reports of Hamas fighters being cleared from the Israeli city of Sderot after early morning shootouts on Sunday, fighting erupted once again later in the day. Hamas, in an official statement, revealed that their fighters were still present within Israel, with many concealed and ready for further attacks from within Israeli cities.
Israeli authorities estimate that approximately 1,000 Hamas fighters managed to infiltrate Israel by crossing the border fence during Saturday’s attack. As of late Sunday night, areas and villages near Gaza have not been declared entirely secure by Israeli authorities, leading to extensive efforts by the police and the army to comb through cities, villages, small communities, fields, and forests to ensure no Hamas fighters remain in the vicinity.
All Israeli citizens residing within a four-kilometer radius of the Gaza strip have been advised to stay indoors, primarily due to the fear of Hamas infiltrators. Additionally, rocket attacks from Gaza persist, with Israeli officials reporting nearly 5,000 rockets hitting Israel since early Saturday morning.
In response, Israeli Air Force jets have continued to target Gaza throughout Sunday, with more than 800 different targets hit so far, according to the Israeli Army Chief, Herzi Halevi.
The Palestinian death toll inside Gaza reached 413 in the late hours of Sunday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
In contrast to Saturday, which saw most Israelis in villages surrounding Gaza seeking refuge in shelters, Sunday became a day when harrowing testimonies from the Hamas attack reached the entire Israeli population.
Numerous Israeli media outlets are currently focused on recounting the stories of survivors. These stories align with many videos from the attack shared by Hamas members on social media. While Israel officially accuses Hamas of war crimes, the Hamas government has issued a directive to its members not to share images or videos on social media platforms, particularly those involving the approximately 130 Israelis taken hostage and transported to Gaza.
Despite these directives, many videos have already garnered public attention within and outside Israel, sparking immense anger among the Israeli population.
One particularly distressing video shows Israeli toddlers apparently being held hostage in Gaza, confined to small enclosures while Palestinians taunt them in the background.
Another video captures Hamas fighters sitting on the half-naked body of a seemingly deceased hostage, with locals seen spitting on the body and uttering curses.
A third video shows Yaffa, an 85-year-old Israeli grandmother taken hostage by Hamas, being paraded through the streets of Gaza in a small vehicle.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have expressed their intent to use the Israeli hostages as part of a deal to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
According to Israeli media reports, indirect negotiations through a third party are underway to secure the release of some of the hostages, particularly those who are either very young or elderly.
The primary focus in Israel on Sunday centered on the reaction to these videos and the ensuing rage. Simultaneously, unanswered questions loom regarding how Hamas managed to completely surprise and overwhelm Israel and why it is taking so long for Tel Aviv to regain control.
For the first time since the surprise attack, shock has given way to outrage for many Israelis. A considerable portion of this anger has been directed at the government, which stands accused of betraying significant segments of the population.
In Israel, the Hamas attack is drawing comparisons to acts of terror groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State. Global leaders have condemned the attack on Israel, especially the manner in which it was executed.
In addition to the ongoing crisis, Israel is also grappling with another potential threat and has reinforced its military presence on its northern border with Lebanon. Over 100,000 Israelis have been summoned for reserve duty. Flights from Greece have transported back around 5,000 Israelis who were called for reserve duty while abroad on vacation.
Since Saturday night, an increased presence of Israeli drones, helicopters, and fighter jets has been observed in the skies over northern Israel due to escalating tensions between Israel and the Iranian-backed Shiite militia, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
Following the Hamas attack, Tel Aviv cautioned Hezbollah through the international Unifil observer team in Lebanon not to engage in any hostilities with Israel. Nevertheless, on Sunday morning, Hezbollah launched an attack on Israeli army positions in the border area using mortar grenades, stating that it was an act of “solidarity” with Hamas.
In retaliation, the Israeli army targeted a Hezbollah position. Fortunately, there have been no reported casualties in these incidents, and the border area remains relatively calm. Nevertheless, as a precaution, the Israeli army has urged Israeli residents living in proximity to the Lebanese border to evacuate the area.
The Israeli security cabinet has voted to officially declare the country at war, authorizing “significant military activities” to be carried out.
In a series of interviews with foreign media outlets, Israeli Knesset member Danny Danon, a politician closely associated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stated that Israel’s objective is to dismantle the Hamas movement in Gaza. Many believe that Israel can only significantly weaken Hamas through a land invasion of Gaza, rather than relying solely on air raids.
At present, Hamas commanders and fighters are believed to be hiding in underground tunnels within Gaza.
Late on Sunday, it was reported that the Israeli Navy commando unit Shayetet 13 had successfully captured Muhammad Abu Ghali, a Commander in Hamas’s navy, from Gaza.
Demonstrating unwavering support for Israel, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the United States is deploying its newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, along with a full carrier strike group, to the Mediterranean Sea.