Over 230 Palestinians martyred as Israel launches retaliatory strikes in Gaza

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The death toll from Saturday’s massive attack by Hamas on Israel has risen to 300 while over 1,000 have been injured with Palestinian gunmen escaping with dozens of hostages including military personnel, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

More than 230 Gazans were also martyred when Israel responded with one of its most devastating days of retaliatory strikes. Fighting continued into the night.

Hamas said its unprecedented offensive by land, air and sea was in response to the desecration of the Al Aqsa Mosque as well as Israeli atrocities against Palestinians over the decades. These include the 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year, increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinians as well as the growth of illegal settlements, according to Al Jazeera.

Mohammed Deif, a Hamas military commander, said the time has come “for the enemy to understand… they cannot keep going without consequences”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to turn the besieged Palestinian enclave into a “deserted island”.

“We will take mighty vengeance for this wicked day,” PM Netanyahu said.

“Hamas launched a cruel and wicked war. We will win this war but the price is too heavy to bear,” he said. “Hamas wants to murder us all. This is an enemy that murders mothers and children in their homes, in their beds. An enemy that abducts elderly, children, teenage girls.”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the assault that had begun in Gaza, a narrow strip that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians, would spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Gazans have lived under an Israeli blockade for 16 years.

Bodies of Israeli civilians were strewn across the streets of Sderot in southern Israel, near Gaza, surrounded by broken glass. The bodies of a man and woman were sprawled across the front seats of a car.