Israel: 300,000 military personnel called up to 'take out Hamas'

Israel: We’ll soon be ready to go in… As airstrikes on Gaza intensify, 300,000 military personnel called up to ‘take out Hamas for good’

  • More than 300,000 reservists, tanks and military vehicles were being mobilised 

Israel stepped up its ferocious air strikes on Gaza last night – with its armed forces vowing to ‘hunt down and take out’ Hamas.

Several top officials of the terror group and some 1,500 of its gunmen have already been killed.

The offensive accelerated after the Israeli Defence Force finally regained control of its borders yesterday – 72 hours after gunmen bulldozed through barriers and launched Saturday’s bloody massacre.

More than 300,000 reservists, tanks and military vehicles were being mobilised before a widely expected ground invasion.

Thousands of rifles, helmets and jackets were being distributed to Israeli civilians in its border communities while hospitals are put on standby for an all-out war.

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, speaking to soldiers near the Gaza fence, said last night: ‘Hamas wanted a change and it will get one. What was in Gaza will no longer be. We started the offensive from the air, later on we will also come from the ground. We are on the offensive. It will only intensify.’ He spoke as: 

More than 300,000 reservists, tanks and military vehicles were being mobilised before a widely expected ground invasion. Pictured: Explosions in the sky above Gaza City last night 

Buildings damaged and destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City 

  • Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet opposition leaders to discuss a unity government;
  • Reservists drafted into active service swelled the IDF’s ranks to more than 600,000;
  • The scale of Hamas’s brutality was laid bare amid claims women and babies had been beheaded;
  • The Home Secretary wrote to chief constables urging warning pro-Palestinian slogans could constitute a hate crime;
  • President Joe Biden confirmed 14 US citizens had been killed and at least 20 taken hostage;
  • The FA continued to drag its feet over illuminating Wembley Arch to show support to the victims of the Hamas atrocity;
  • The Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote to the Culture Secretary to complain about BBC coverage of the attacks.
  • Last night there were fears of escalation after Israel’s military said a number of shells were fired from Syrian territory. Syria’s government did not comment.

Blockaded Gaza has already been placed under ‘total siege’ and pummelled with strikes since Hamas killed 900 people and kidnapped 150 four days ago.

Plumes of smoke and flames continue to rise across the skyline yesterday while the bombardment has left many roads impassable for emergency crews.

Smoke billows from a boat after a strike by Israel on the port of Gaza City

Smoke rises over the buildings as the Israeli airstrikes continue in Al-Rimal Neighbourhood of Gaza City

At least 830 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza officials, while whole districts in the densely populated enclave have been flattened and food, power and water cut off. The bombardment comes despite a threat from Hamas that it would execute a captive each time a Palestinian home is hit without warning.

Israel says it has killed more than 1,500 militants amid fighting along the border since Saturday.

In retaliation Hamas has fired rockets towards the port of Ashkelon from Gaza after warning those living there to leave before 5pm local time. Israeli Iron Dome rockets were launched to intercept the rockets.

Rockets were also fired from southern Lebanon. The IDF said it was responding with artillery fire.

Israel has vowed to take its ‘mighty revenge’ on Hamas and warned militants they had ‘nowhere to hide’ as airstrikes hit more than 1,500 targets. The strikes were said to have killed two senior Hamas officials – Jawad Abu Shammala and Zakaria Abu Maamar in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip. IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said troops were now in ‘full control’ of Israel’s communities around Gaza and at ‘high readiness’ near the northern border.

‘We will reach them everywhere,’ he warned. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, another IDF spokesman, told the Mail: ‘We have amassed more than 300,000 reserve soldiers… and once the tactical timing is right they will start implementing the goal that the Israeli government has defined, which is to strip Hamas of all of its military capabilities.’

He said the military were ‘actively trying to hunt and take out’ the Hamas gunmen behind Saturday’s atrocities. He added: ‘We are striking Hamas with an intensity that we haven’t done before.

President Joe Biden confirmed last night that 14 US citizens had been killed and at least 20 taken hostage

Photo shows rockets being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence missile system

‘We are also hunting and trying to find Hamas senior operatives, so-called commanders, in their homes, hideouts, underground, wherever they may be.’ IDF phone messages have warned Palestinians to flee, indicating an imminent raid on the densely populated Gaza strip. But most Gazans have no way of leaving the besieged and blockaded enclave.

The UN said Israeli air attacks had hit homes, schools and UN buildings. Gaza’s health ministry said at least 830 civilians – including seven journalists – have been killed and 4,000 wounded by the air strikes since Saturday.

More than 180,000 had been made homeless, with many left looking for shelter on streets or in schools. The mortuary in Gaza’s Khan Younis hospital was said to be overflowing and, with gas and electricity cut off, hospitals have had to ration generators and keep electricity for operating rooms.

Professor Ghasson Abu Sitta, a surgeon, said children made up a ‘huge percentage’ of the injured.

Mr Biden condemned Hamas last night, describing its onslaught as ‘an act of sheer evil’. He added: ‘Sadly for the Jewish people, it’s not new. It’s brought to the surface painful memories of anti-semitism over the last century.

‘Let there be no doubt. The United States has Israel’s back. We’ll make sure the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can defend itself, as we always have.’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel this week to show US support.

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