Israel and Hamas declared they were at war on Saturday after Hamas militants launched one of the largest assaults on Israel in 50 years.
Hamas fired thousands of rockets toward Israeli cities, and Palestinian militants crossed into southern Israel, killing civilians and holding Israelis hostage.
Israel retaliated with major strikes across the blockaded Gaza Strip, leveling multistory buildings, including a residential building with approximately 100 units.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s top military spokesman, said at least 2,200 rockets were fired into Israeli airspace in the early hours of the assault. Israel’s emergency service, Magen David Adom, said it had received reports of Hamas rockets landing as far north as Tel Aviv. The exact location of many rocket strikes is unknown.
Photos showed dead bodies of civilians in their cars and at a bus stop in and around the Israeli city of Sderot. The bodies of several bloodied civilians were crumpled together in a room following an attack on the kibbutz of Kfar Azza.
On Saturday evening, Admiral Hagari said there were ongoing hostage situations in the Be’eri kibbutz and the city of Ofakim.
Plumes of flames and smoke rose above Gaza City as Israel retaliated, reducing multistory buildings to rubble. The streets of Gaza City were largely empty as residents prepared for intensified Israeli airstrikes.
The Palestinian territory of Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade, backed by Egypt, since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip in 2007. The blockade restricts the import of many goods and prevents most people from leaving the territory.