Israel war live updates: Babies, children allegedly murdered by Hamas

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Israel is in a war to “ensure its existence” after Hamas militants launched a devastating attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, warning “difficult days are still ahead of us”.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which rules the Gaza Strip, launched an extensive multi-pronged attack against Israel on Saturday, catching the country’s intelligence agencies completely off guard. Thousands of rockets were fired from Gaza while militants infiltrated Israeli communities, massacring hundreds and abducting some 150 hostages.

Israel launched a wave of air strikes in retaliation for the bloody incursion and has imposed a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip, cutting off electricity, food, water and gas to its 2.3 million residents.

Israel is threatening a ground invasion as more than 300,000 reservists are called up.

Hamas has warned it will begin broadcasting the execution of hostages if Israel targets “innocent civilians”, with 200 targets in Gaza hit in one night alone.

‘Sheer horror’: Babies, children murdered

Hamas militants allegedly murdered at least 40 babies and children in a single town, with some of them found beheaded.

Israeli soldiers said they discovered the horrifying aftermath in the town of Kfar Aza, near the border with Gaza.

“I’ve been talking to some of the soldiers, and they say what they’ve witnessed as they’ve been walking through these houses, these communities – babies, their heads cut off. That is what they said,” i24 News journalist Nicole Zedek reported, her voice shaking.

“Families gunned down in their beds. You can see some of these soldiers now, comforting each other, many of them reserves, many of whom left their own families behind, not knowing the sheer horror they were going to come to.

“They say they’ve never experienced anything like this, this is not something anyone ever could have imagined.

“About 40 babies at least were taken out on gurneys. They are going house to house still taking out dead bodies.”

Fox News reporter Trey Yingst wrote: “Imagine the worst things possible that can be done to humans. Hamas did all of that and more to Israeli civilians. Babies beheaded. People burned alive in their homes. Women raped and dragged through the streets. Don’t look away.”

Australian woman first confirmed casualty

Sydney-born woman Galit Carbone is believed to be the first Australian killed in the bloodshed in Israel.

The 66-year-old grandmother was killed in her home in the Be’eri kibbutz in southern Israel, about 5km from the Gaza Strip border.

Ms Carbone was killed when Hamas militants targeted homes, setting them on fire to smoke out inhabitants.

Julian Cappe, a cousin of Ms Carbone, said her family was “numb” after learning her body had been found outside her home, the Australian reports. About 100 people are believed to have been killed in the raid on the kibbutz.

A number of Australians are still missing in Israel since the conflict broke out on Saturday, with fears they may be among the dead.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said there was about 10,000 Australians in Israel but the Department of Foreign Affairs has not confirmed any deaths.

‘Sheer evil’: Biden’s emotional speech

US President Joe Biden said Washington stood by its ally Israel and was ready to deploy more military assets to the region as he condemned the attacks by Hamas in a speech on Wednesday morning.

Mr Biden said Hamas had carried out atrocities including murders of entire families and rapes of women, along with “stomach-turning reports of babies being killed”.

“There are moments in this life — I mean this literally — when a pure unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world,” he said.

“This is an act of sheer evil.”

Mr Biden confirmed at least 14 Americans were dead and a number had been taken hostage by Hamas, which has threatened to kill hostages if Israel did not warn civilians of upcoming attacks on Gaza.

Mr Biden said the US would support Israel “today, tomorrow, as we always have” and issued one word to any adversaries of Israel who might get involved: “Don’t”.

Rocket fire rains down after deadline passes

Earlier, Hamas gave the Israeli city Ashkelon a deadline of 5pm, local time, for residents to evacuate. That deadline has now passed, and the city is being showered with rockets.

Hamas gives city two hours to evacuate

“In response to the enemy’s crime of displacing our people and forcing them to flee their homes in several areas of the Gaza Strip, we give the residents of the occupied city of Ashkelon a deadline to leave it before 5pm this evening,” a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, Al Qassam Brigades, said in a statement.

Massive push to arm Israeli civilians

Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has announced a push to buy 10,000 rifles to arm “civilian security teams” across the country.

“We will turn the world upside down so that towns are protected,” he said, according to The Times of Israel.

“I have given instructions for massively arming the civilian security team.”

The policy is focused on towns that have “civilian security teams linked to Israel’s border police force”.

Israel recaptures border towns

Israel said it had recaptured border areas from Hamas militants on Tuesday, as the death toll from the conflict passed 3000, including more than a thousand Israelis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Israel’s military campaign is only the start of a sustained war to destroy Hamas and “change the Middle East”.

Hamas gunmen killed more than 100 people in the kibbutz of Beeri alone, said Moti Bukjin, a volunteer with the charity Zaka, which recovers bodies in accordance with Jewish law.

“They shot everyone,” he told AFP.

“They murdered in cold blood children, babies, old people. Everyone.”

Mr Netanyahu compared the large-scale slaughter of Israeli civilians to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, when it controlled vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.

“Hamas terrorists bound, burned and executed children,” a seething Netanyahu said in a televised address to the grieving nation late Monday.

“They are savages. Hamas is ISIS.”

The Israeli army has called up 300,000 reservists for its “Swords of Iron” campaign and massed tanks and other heavy armour, both near Gaza and on the northern border with Lebanon, where the militant group Hezbollah wields immense influence.

The Israeli military said its forces had largely reclaimed the embattled south and the border around Gaza and dislodged holdout Hamas fighters from more than a dozen towns and kibbutzim.

“Around 1500 bodies of Hamas (fighters) have been found in Israel around the Gaza Strip,” said army spokesman Richard Hecht, adding security forces had “more or less restored control over the border” with the enclave.

Threat to kill hostages

The United States, a key ally of Israel, which has reported 11 of its own citizens killed in the spiralling conflict, stressed its full support for Israel, as did Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Their leaders said they recognised the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people” but said Hamas “offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed”, in a joint statement.

The five Western powers and many other nations have reported citizens killed, abducted or missing, also including Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Paraguay, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine.

Hamas has held around 150 hostages since its ground incursion, among them children, elderly and young people who were captured at a music festival where some 270 died.

On Monday, Hamas warned it would start killing hostages every time Israel launches a strike on a civilian target in Gaza without warning.

Fear and chaos reigned among the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the crowded and impoverished coastal territory that has been hammered by thousands of Israeli bombs.

Fireballs repeatedly lit up Gaza City before dawn Tuesday as explosions shook the ground and sirens wailed.

In Gaza City, aerial footage shot by AFP showed the scale of the destruction, with entire building blocks reduced to rubble.

One resident, Muhammad Najib, 70, said he fled his home Monday after receiving an Israeli warning to evacuate and returned on Tuesday to a “terrifying scene” in his Al-Rimal neighbourhood.

“The entire area was devastated, a large number of houses were completely destroyed,” he said.

“What is the fault of the children and the women?”

Four Palestinian journalists were killed in an Israeli air strikes on Gaza City, media unions and officials said.

Israel imposed a total siege on long-blockaded Gaza on Monday, cutting off the water supply, food, electricity and other essential supplies.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply distressed” by the siege announcement and warned Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation will now “only deteriorate exponentially”.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said Tuesday that imposing “sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law”.

– with AFP

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