Israel has pounded the besieged Gaza Strip for a second night in a row after formally declaring war against the Palestinian Hamas group. Its military says some 100,000 reserve troops have amassed near Gaza.
Fierce fighting is continuing between Hamas gunmen and Israeli troops in at least three areas in southern Israel, including a kibbutz in Karmia and the cities of Ashkelon and Sderot.
Israel has declared a “state of war” as its army continues to face off against Palestinian fighters in several areas across southern Israel.
This comes a day after a surprise attack by al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said it launched mortar attacks into the occupied Shebaa Farms in solidarity with Hamas; Israel said it responded with artillery.
The escalation comes as expectations grow that Israel will launch a ground invasion of Gaza after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to turn the besieged Palestinian enclave into a “deserted island”.
The latest death toll stands at 370 Palestinians, according to health officials; and at least 600 Israelis, according to media reports.
Israel’s health ministry has updated the number of Israelis wounded in the ongoing violence, saying 2,382 have been treated in hospitals so far.
Twenty-two of them are in critical condition and 345 are seriously injured, the ministry said in a statement cited by local media.
Hamas said it launched its large-scale operation in response to continued brutality by Israel and its occupation administration against Palestinians.
This includes standing by as Israeli settlers launch violent attacks on Palestinian villages and neighborhoods; attacking worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and killing an alarming number of Palestinians this year.
Home to some 2 million people and measuring about 365sq km (141sq miles), the Gaza Strip has been ruled by Hamas since 2007 since a brief war with forces loyal to the Palestinian authority who govern the West Bank.
People around the world have taken to the streets of their cities in support of both Palestine and Israel as fighting continues.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has met behind closed doors in an emergency session amid the war between Israel and Gaza but failed to achieve the unanimity needed for a joint statement.
The council met for about 90 minutes and heard a briefing from the UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland.
Diplomats said members led by Russia were hoping for a broader focus than condemning Hamas.
A statement needs to be agreed upon by consensus.