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Israel’s military said it had regained control in towns bordering the Gaza Strip on Monday, two days after an unprecedented attack by Hamas killed hundreds of Israelis.
Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari told reporters that fighting in neighbouring towns had concluded, with “control” achieved in all communities, though Gaza militants could still be in the area.
Hagari said the army’s priority was to close “gaps in the [Gaza border] fence”.
But we warned that “there could still be terrorists in the area”, adding that helicopters, tanks and drones would patrol the fence “to ensure no terrorist infiltrates Israel”.
Richard Hecht, another IDF spokesperson, had said earlier in the day that there were still seven or eight places in Israel’s southern border area with Gaza “where we have still warriors fighting terrorists”.
Hecht, who referred to Israel’s lack of preparedness for the Hamas attack as a “failure”, added that there was still an active hostage situation inside Kfar Aza, a kibbutz in the south of the country.
Israel said it bombed more than 1,000 targets in Gaza overnight, deployed four military divisions in the south and took steps to secure its northern border with Lebanon, where militant group Hizbollah fired mortars at an Israeli military base in the occupied Golan Heights on Sunday.
More than 700 Israeli civilians and troops have been killed since Hamas entered Israel through the high-tech border fence on foot, in vehicles and paragliders in the early hours of Saturday, when some Israeli soldiers had gone home to celebrate the Jewish Simchat Torah holiday.
At least 100 people have been abducted in the deadliest conflict inside Israel since 1948.
After the attack, Israel cut off electricity into Gaza and launched air attacks on the blockaded Palestinian enclave, destroying several high-rise buildings. Gaza health officials said on Monday that 493 people had been killed in the enclave and 2,751 injured.
UN officials said more than 123,000 people had been displaced in Gaza as of Saturday night following Israeli air strikes, some of which hit residential buildings. The UN agency for Palestine refugees estimated that more than 73,000 people were sheltering in 64 schools in Gaza.
Israel has fought wars in Gaza since Hamas gained control of the territory of 2mn in 2007. In 2021, an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas sparked communal violence between Jewish and Palestinian groups within Israel and spread to the West Bank, where protesters clashed with Israeli security forces.
Oil prices rose by about 3 per cent on Monday to just under $87 a barrel on concerns that fallout from the conflict could widen across the region.
“Obviously everyone’s reaction was to buy oil given the heightened political risk,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, adding that there were concerns that Iran’s potential involvement in planning the Hamas attack could lead to stronger US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
Several global airlines — including Cathay Pacific, easyJet and Lufthansa — have suspended flights to Israel following the outbreak of conflict, with 23 per cent of flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport cancelled on Monday, according to data from FlightRadar 24.
Asked on Monday about whether Iran had provided Hamas support for its lightning attack, Hecht said the Iranians were likely to have been involved but “we are not focusing on that right now”.
“We are fighting against Hamas,” he said, adding that “we are making sure that our northern border is secured and ramped up”.
The US on Sunday said it would move an aircraft carrier strike group and fighter jets into the eastern Mediterranean as well as supply Israel with munitions to support the IDF’s efforts to restore its control over the area.
The Bank of Israel on Monday announced a plan to sell up to $30bn in foreign exchange to stabilise volatility in the shekel exchange rate and provide liquidity “for the continued proper functioning of the markets”.
Additional reporting by Neri Zilber in Tel Aviv
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