The death toll in Israel following a surprise attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas has risen above 600, according to several Israeli media outlets, the Associated Press reports.
“The Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12, as well as the Haaretz and Times of Israel newspapers, reported the toll Sunday,” the AP said.
“There has been no official confirmation of the number of deaths on the Israeli side since the fighting erupted early Saturday,” the report continued.
Palestinian officials say more than 300 people have been killed in Gaza, without differentiating between fighters and civilians.
Hamas gunmen used explosives to break through the border fence enclosing Gaza on Saturday, then crossed with motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders, and speed boats on the coast.
In response to the Hamas attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says his Security Cabinet has declared the country at war following a deadly Hamas assault in southern Israel.”
The decision, announced on Sunday, formally authorises “the taking of significant military steps,” it said in a statement.
“The war that was forced on the State of Israel in a murderous terrorist assault from the Gaza Strip began at 6:00 yesterday,” it said. It gave no further details. But Netanyahu had previously declared the country at war, and the military has promised a harsh response in Gaza.
Israeli media say at least 600 people have been killed in the surprise cross-border incursion by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is looking at additional requests for assistance that the Israelis have made, and there could be developments on that front later Sunday.
He told CNN President Joe Biden’s “direction was to make sure that we’re providing Israel everything it needs in this moment to deal with the attacks from Hamas.”
Blinken, who gave interviews to multiple U.S. television news shows Sunday, also talked about how the Hamas attack could have been motivated in part to derail an emerging diplomatic deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s no surprise that those who are opposed to the talks, those who are opposed to Israel normalising relations with its neighbours and the countries beyond the region are Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. And so it’s entirely possible that one of the motivations for this attack was to try to derail these efforts to advance normalisation,” Blinken said.
He said Washington had seen reports that Americans were missing or had been killed, and “we’re working overtime to verify that.”
Furthermore, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, said American citizens are among those who were taken captive but gave no details about them nor about Americans who might have been killed.
“Unfortunately, I can’t. We have a lot of dual citizens in Israel. I suspect there are several, but we’re still trying to sort through all of this information after this horrific surprise attack, and we’ll make sure to put that information out so that the loved ones of these people who were killed and who are held hostage, they know as quickly as possible,” Dermer told CNN’s ‘’State of the Union.’’
New developments show that Germany’s development minister says her country will review its aid for the Palestinian areas following the attack by Hamas on Israel.
The development ministry says Germany does not finance the Palestinian Authority directly, but a total of 250 million euros ($265 million) is currently pledged in German aid – half of that for bilateral projects via Germany’s overseas aid agency and development bank, and the other half for the U.N. agency for the Palestinians, UNRWA.
Development Minister Svenja Schulze said in a statement Sunday that Germany already took great care that its aid for Palestinians ‘serves peace and not the terrorists.’
“But these attacks on Israel are a terrible watershed, so we will review our whole commitment to the Palestinian areas,” she added.
Schulze noted that Israel also has an interest in Palestinians being able to live in long-term stability and said Germany will also coordinate with its international partners.