In an address to his nation Monday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country’s military forces are “just beginning” to fight back against Hamas militants, even as Israeli warplanes unleashed hundreds of airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip throughout the day.
Netanyahu urged the opposition in his right-wing government to “immediately establish a national emergency government without preconditions” during the war.
Israeli warplanes repeatedly hit Gaza on Monday, while the military said it mobilized 300,000 reservists ahead of “going on the offensive” in response to the surprise attack Saturday by Hamas militants.
“We are fighting animals, and we will act accordingly,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told army commanders. At one point on Monday, Israel said it had attacked 130 Hamas targets in a three-hour time frame.
In response, a Hamas military spokesman said its fighters would kill one of about 150 civilian hostages Hamas is holding any time Israel targets Gaza civilians without warning.
Gallant said in a video statement that Israel would implement a “complete siege” on Gaza, cutting the Palestinian territory off from access to electricity, food, water and gas.
Israeli chief military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters that Israel had reestablished control of areas near Gaza that Hamas militants stormed in the incursion that began Saturday.
There were some areas of fighting early Monday, Hagari said, and that while the areas were under Israeli control there were ongoing searches for Palestinian militants.
But another spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, said that the IDF “cannot deny” that Hamas militants might still be crossing into Israel. He added it was taking Israeli forces “more time than we thought” to stop the Hamas incursion, which was hindered by the presence of civilians in the area.
The death toll Monday rose to at least 900 people in Israel and 687 in Gaza, and that figure is expected to climb. Nearly 6,000 people on both sides were injured. The U.S. State Department said that nine Americans were among those killed, and that other U.S. citizens were unaccounted for.
The dead in Israel also included people from Britain, France, Nepal, Thailand and Ukraine, officials from those nations said.
The United Nations said more than 123,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been internally displaced. The hostages held by Hamas include women, children and elderly people.
Meanwhile, Hamas said it was holding more than 100 hostages, many of them women, children and elderly people.
In addition to carrying out hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza, the Israeli military said it mobilized 300,000 reservists as part of its response.
“Our job is to make sure that at the end of this war, Hamas will no longer have any military capabilities to threaten Israeli civilians with,” Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “In addition to that, we are also to make sure that Hamas will not be able to govern the Gaza Strip.”
Gaza has faced various levels of blockades from Israel and Egypt since Hamas seized power there from a rival Palestinian party in 2007.
The leader of the military wing of Hamas cited the Gaza blockade as well as raids in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and tensions around a holy site in Jerusalem among the factors that sparked the Hamas attack.
U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders condemned the Hamas attack, with Biden promising Israel further military assistance to defend itself.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy drew a parallel between Russia’s invasion of his country and the Hamas attack on Israel.
“The same evil, and the only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel, and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in a video address Monday to a NATO parliamentary assembly in Copenhagen.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was convening an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers Tuesday to discuss the situation. The U.N. Security Council held closed-door talks Sunday.
Poland and Hungary were among countries that carried out evacuation flights from Israel on Monday.
Austria said it would freeze development aid for Palestinian areas in response to the Hamas attack.
Israel formally declared war against Hamas on Sunday.
“This war will take time. It will be difficult,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged the United States “will continue to work to ensure Israel has what it needs to protect its citizens and to secure the release of hostages.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his support in a phone call Sunday with Gallant. The Pentagon is sending equipment and munitions to aid Israel and has directed a Navy aircraft carrier to move to the eastern Mediterranean.
Hamas and Israel have fought four wars since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.
During past conflicts between Israel and Palestinian militants, Egypt has often played a key role in mediating an end to the fighting.
Other countries have influence in the region as well, but Chang Teng-chi, chairperson of Political Science Department at Taiwan University, specializing in Chinese diplomacy, told VOA that while China has strong relations with Israel, its lack of connection with the other side of the conflict means it “may be difficult for China to play a mediating role.”
“China’s main dealings are limited to the Palestinian Authority, and it has no deep relationship with Hamas,” Chang said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army exchanged gunfire Sunday with Hezbollah militants on the Lebanese border, in northern Israel, opening the possibility of a broader conflict, although Blinken said fighting there had quieted.
Lebanon and Israel are considered enemy states, but a 2006 truce between them has held, for the most part with occasional small rocket attacks from Lebanon which Israel has addressed with retaliatory attacks.
Chi-wei Chuang of VOA’s Mandarin Service and Gibbs Dube of VOA’s Zimbabwe Service contributed to this report.