As the combined death toll continues to rise three days after Hamas’ attacks on Israel and the taking of hostages, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei lauds the assault, stating that his country “kisses the hands” of those behind it.
According to the Israeli Defence Forces, 1,000 Israelis have been killed in the Hamas assault, and Israel's retaliatory airstrikes have killed 800 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
At least 1,500 Hamas fighters have also been killed, primarily through air bombardments of Gaza and border security operations, the IDF said, disclosing that the bodies of the militants were found on Israeli territory.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that Be’eri, a kibbutz near Gaza, was one of the first and hardest-hit areas in Israel. More than 100 bodies were found there, most of whom were local residents, it said.
Videos showed militants arriving on motorbikes and committing atrocities, including taking hostages and killing civilians. A search and rescue spokesperson was quoted as saying that some of the bodies were of Israeli security forces.
The kibbutzim, traditionally agrarian communities, have about 125,000 residents across about 250 locations in Israel, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel. The IDF also acknowledged that Be’eri was “very badly hit.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised those behind the Hamas attacks, NBC News reported. Khamenei stated that Iran “kisses the hands” of the orchestrators but denied his country’s involvement. He also referred to what he termed as Israel’s “irreparable” intelligence and military failures.
Fears are growing for the dozens of hostages. Hamas has threatened to start executing hostages if Israel targets civilians in Gaza.
In an audio clip, Abu Obeida, the spokesman of the Qassam Brigades, said the threat to execute hostages comes in response to Israeli airstrikes.
“We have decided to put an end to this and as of now, we declare that any targeting of our people in their homes without prior warning will be regrettably faced with the execution of one the hostages of civilians we are holding,” Obeida was quoted as saying.
The New York Times detailed how Hamas initiated Saturday's early morning assault.
Thousands of rockets were fired, hitting targets as far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, according to the Times, which said, an hour later, militants infiltrated Israel by land, sea and air. They took hostages and infiltrated 22 Israeli towns and army bases.
Many of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas were taken into Gaza.
Muhammad Deif, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, was quoted as saying that the operation aimed to make Israel understand that “the time of their rampaging without accountability has ended.”
Deif cited several reasons for the attack, including Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and recent police raids on the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He also mentioned the detention of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails, as reported by the Times.
At least 11 Americans have also been confirmed dead and several others remain missing. “At this time, we can confirm the deaths of nine U.S. citizens,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement Monday. “We can confirm that there are unaccounted-for U.S. citizens, and we are working with our Israeli partners to determine their whereabouts.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described the assault as the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 carried out by Egypt and Syria, differentiating the current situation from past conflicts and emphasizing that this is a terrorist assault involving home invasions and kidnappings of civilians.
Israeli officials have described Hamas' attacks as akin to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor combined.