West Jerusalem has alleged that the militant group was using places of worship in Gaza to direct attacks
Israeli warplanes have struck two mosques in the Gaza Strip that allegedly housed Hamas command centers used to direct the militant group’s ongoing major offensive.
“Fighter jets attacked two operational infrastructures that were located in mosques and were used by the terrorist organization Hamas to direct terror against the state of Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in an operational update posted early Sunday. The IDF claimed that Hamas was using the holy sites and the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to evade Israel’s response to the surprise attacks launched by the group on Saturday.
Israel has cut off electricity service to the Palestinian territory and carried out dozens of air strikes against Hamas targets after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the country is at war with the militant group. The PM vowed in a televised address on Saturday night to “take revenge for this black day” and turn all of the sites used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip into “ruins.”
“All the places that Hamas hides in, operates in, we will turn into ruins,” Netanyahu said. He urged civilians in the area to “get out of there now.”
The fighting began early Saturday, when Hamas launched rockets into Israel and infiltrated villages in the southern part of the country with militants. Local media reports said more than 300 Israelis had been killed, and nearly 1,600 were wounded. Dozens of Israeli civilians and troops were captured and taken to Gaza. Rocket attacks against Israel continued into Saturday night.
Israel’s retaliatory strikes against Hamas killed more than 230 and injured almost 1,800, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri told Al Jazeera that the group had captured so many Israelis, including senior officers, that it expected to negotiate a prisoner swap for the release of the thousands of Palestinians incarcerated in Israel’s jails. Al Jazeera television showed a residential tower apparently being hit in an Israeli air strike while one of its journalists was doing a live report from the scene in central Gaza City.