The ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas has claimed more than 2,700 lives as of Thursday, and is the most serious escalation in the region in decades. Six days into the conflict, RT looks at the key events so far.
War beginsDubbed ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’, Hamas’ operation began on Saturday morning with a sustained barrage of rockets fired from Gaza towards targets in Israel. Hamas, the militant organization that has de-facto governed Gaza since 2007, claimed that 5,000 rockets were launched in the initial barrage, while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) put the number closer to 2,500.
Following the bombardment, Hamas bulldozed portions of the fence separating Gaza from Israel, as more than 1,000 of its fighters poured into Israel on motorbikes, pickup trucks, and paragliders.
Attacks on civiliansThe Hamas units advanced rapidly into Israeli territory, storming 22 towns, villages, and settlements by Saturday afternoon, according to a tally by Al Jazeera. Reports of shocking brutality soon followed, with at least 260 Israeli and foreign civilians slaughtered at a music festival and an unknown number captured by the militants.
Some of the most harrowing images came from the Be’eri and Kfar Aza kibbutzim (collective farms), where houses were ransacked and men, women, and children murdered. As of Thursday, bodies were still being recovered from Be’eri, where Israeli authorities say 110 people were killed and dozens taken to Gaza as captives.
Stories and images from these settlements and others galvanized international support for Israel, although pro-Israel pundits and politicians have also spread unconfirmed rumors, including the widely repeated but officially disavowed claim that Hamas fighters beheaded 40 babies and raped numerous women.
Israel respondsIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of war on Sunday, after IDF troops were deployed to clear Israeli towns and villages of Hamas fighters. On Monday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced “a complete siege” of Gaza, sealing the tiny Palestinian enclave’s 2.4 million people off from food, water, fuel, medicine, and electricity.