More than 1,100 people have been killed in Israel and Gaza after Hamas militants launched a stunning surprise attack on Saturday, invading multiple towns in southern Israel by land, sea, and air after firing thousands of rockets and missiles at Israeli cities. Israel has retaliated with air strikes in Gaza. The wide-scale attack, which marked the 50th anniversary of Israel’s 1973 War, is the largest the country has faced in decades, and a startling escalation of the endless conflict between Israel and Palestinians militants in the occupied territories, including Gaza, which has been under an strict Israeli blockade since Hamas took control of the densely populated strip of land in 2007. The fighting was ongoing on Sunday, as the death toll continues to rise. Below are live updates on this conflict and its consequences.
Drone footage shows destruction caused by attack on Nova music festival
Full death toll in Israel is still not clear
Israeli authorities now estimate that at least 700 people were killed in Israeli territory during the attack — the vast majority of them civilians.
U.S. confirms several Americans are among the dead
“We can confirm the deaths of several U.S. citizens,” a senior American official told ABC News. “We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and to the families of all those affected.”
Numerous other foreigners are victims, as well
Citizens of the U.K., France, Thailand, Ukraine, Germany, Nepal, and Mexico are among the dead, missing, or captured, according to the New York Times.
Militant groups say they have more than 130 hostages in Gaza
The Associated Press reports that a senior Hamas official has claimed the group is holding more than 100 people who were captured in Israeli territory amid the attack, including senior Israeli military commanders. Another militant group which participated in the attack, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has said it has more than 30 hostages.
Soldiers and civilians, including women, children, and seniors, are reportedly among those taken back to the Gaza Strip.
A senior Israeli military official has estimated that at 150 people were taken hostage.
More than 260 bodies recovered at Nova music festival in Israel: What we know
Revelers at an outdoor trance-music festival in Israel had to run for their lives early Saturday morning after Hamas gunmen crossed the nearby Israel-Gaza border and opened fire on attendees. Israeli authorities said Sunday that at least 260 bodies have been recovered from the scene, and the toll is expected it rise. An unknown number of festivalgoers were taken captive by the militants.
Thousands of people attended Tribe of Nova’s “Supernova Sukkot Gathering” — an overnight three-stage rave held in rural southern Israel a few miles from the Gaza Strip to celebrate of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, the first sign of danger for festivalgoers was when some heard rocket-warning sirens and heard or saw rockets in the sky. Then the music was shut off and someone announced there was a “red alert” over the speakers.
Witnesses say many began trying to escape the isolated festival site, but that led to a traffic jam. Then came the gunmen, who reportedly fired at everyone they saw.
In videos shared on social media, attendees can be seen fleeing the festival on foot and by car amid the sounds of gunfire and explosions in the background. Some videos show festivalgoers lying motionless on the ground. Others show young people being taken captive by militants. One video purportedly shot near the event shows dozens of shot-up or burned vehicles lining the road.
A video shared on TikTok, taken before the violence began, appears to show approaching militants in paragliders.
The Washington Post reports that Israeli authorities began recovering bodies from the site on Sunday:
Soldiers put bodies in the back of a large refrigerated truck parked next to hundreds of cars abandoned by partygoers. In one clearing, the shells of burned vehicles lay beside discarded tents, camping mats and coolers
Some survivors have recounted their terrifying experiences to journalists. CNN spoke with one attendee, Tal Gibly, who had taken video footage of the frantic scene:
Gibly told CNN she ran to the forest, and eventually got into another car driving past. She saw a number of dead and injured people on the sides of the road, but one scene in particular stuck with her: one concertgoer shot dead outside a van, and another dead in the vehicle’s passenger seat …
“It was so terrifying and we didn’t know where to drive to not meet those evil … people,” she said. “I have a lot of friends that got lost at the forest for a lot of hours and got shot like it was a range.”
Gibly is still trying to get in touch with her friends who were also at the concert. She says she doesn’t know if others survived, were taken prisoner, or worse.
They turned off the electricity and suddenly out of nowhere they [militants] come inside with gunfire, opening fire in every direction … Fifty terrorists arrived in vans, dressed in military uniforms …
They fired bursts, and we reached a point where everyone stopped their vehicles and started running. I went into a tree, a bush like this, and they just started spraying people. I saw masses of wounded people thrown around and I’m in a tree and trying to understand what’s going on.
Survivor Gili Yoskovich told BBC that she hid from the gunmen for hours, waiting for help that never came:
“The terrorists were coming from four or five places … so we didn’t know whether to go here, so then I got into my car again and I drove a little bit more.
“Some people were shooting at me. I left the car and started to run, I saw a place with many pomelo trees and I went there.
“So I was in the middle [of this field] and I was lying on the floor. It was the second hiding place I found and they were just all around me.
“They were going tree by tree and shooting. Everywhere. From two sides. I saw people were dying all around. I was very quiet. I didn’t cry, I didn’t do anything.
“But I was on the one hand breathing, saying: ‘OK, I’m going to die. It’s OK, just breathe, just close your eyes,’ because it was shooting everywhere, it was very very close to me.
“Then I heard the terrorists open a big van … and get more weapons from this car. They were in the area for three hours. No-one was there, no-one.
“I was sure the army would come, I heard some helicopters, I was sure the army would come down with helicopters and ropes and go down into this field and save us. But no-one was there. Just all these terrorists.
One of the missing festival attendees has been identified by family members as Shani Louk, a German-Israeli woman who was seen lying motionless in the back of a pickup truck in a video shared online. Per the Washington Post:
“We knew she was in the party; she didn’t answer,” her cousin in Berlin, Tom Weintraub Louk, said.
The revelers had been dancing in the area all night. Family members also desperately tried reach her Mexican boyfriend, but they couldn’t get through.
Later in the morning, in the slew of videos exchanged on social media, another cousin sent one that appeared to show Shani in the back of a pickup truck.
“She’s lying there on the jeep of Hamas with armed people,” said Louk, who hasn’t been able to bring herself to look at the video herself but said her cousin’s parents have. “We recognized her by the tattoos, and she has long dreadlocks,” she said. While her cousin appears lifeless, the family is still holding out for news, Louk said.
In the video the woman is facedown in the bed of the truck with four militants. One holds her hair while another raises a gun in the air and shouts “Allahu Akbar!” A crowd follows the truck cheering.
The organizers of the festival said Sunday that they are working with Israeli authorities to help locate missing attendees.
U.S. is sending additional military aid to Israel
President Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu in a Sunday phone call that the U.S. was sending “additional military assistance” to Israel, as the country quickly requested Saturday, to aid in its war effort. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin later said in a statement that the U.S. was sending “additional equipment and resources, including munitions.” The U.S. is also moving an aircraft-carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
An unknown number of Americans are victims of the attack
What we know so far
At least 600 people are believed dead in Israel, and nearly 400 dead in Gaza, and many of dead were likely civilians on both sides. On Sunday, the fighting continued in Israeli territory, as did Israeli air strikes in Gaza, and Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. During the attack on Saturday, militants opened fire at an outdoor music festival in Israel, killing an unknown number of civilians.
“We are at war,” Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu said in a national address responding to the attack on Saturday, vowing to “return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known.” Israel quickly launched a massive wave of retaliatory air strikes in Gaza and called up military reservists.
Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said Saturday that it conducted “coordinated” attacks on 50 targets.
Militants also captured numerous Israeli soldiers and civilians and moved them to Gaza.
By Sunday, there were also clashes between Palestinian and Israeli forces in the West Bank, and there was fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants along Israel’s border with Lebanon.
President Biden called the attack “appalling” in a statement on Saturday and affirmed the “rock solid and unwavering” support of the U.S. for Israel and its right to defend itself. Numerous other western leaders have also condemned the attack.
This post has been updated.