The Palestinian Hamas militant group which launched an unprecedented surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, has claimed that it was currently holding more than 100 Israeli nationals as hostages, including high-ranking army officers.
In an interview with Arabic news outlet al-Ghad TV late Sunday night, Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy chief of the group’s political bureau, said the number of Israeli hostages “hasn’t been counted yet but they are over a hundred”, CNN reported
When queried if Israeli army officers were among the hostages, Marzouk replied: “There are high-ranking officers.”
Israel authorities have said that dozens of Israelis are being held hostage in Gaza but have not confirmed exact numbers.
Also on Sunday night, Islamic Jihad, a militant group that operates in Palestinian territories, announced that it has taken 30 Israelis as hostages.
In a televised address, Ziad al-Nakhalah, the group’s secretary-general, said: “The Islamic Jihad Movement currently has more than 30 prisoners, and they will not return to their homes until our prisoners are liberated.”
The Islamic Jihad and Hamas are separate organisations, but they both operate in the Gaza Strip and are aligned in their opposition to Israel.
The Islamic Jihad has called for Israel to release some of its fighters in exchange for the hostages’ release.
The total number of hostages taken during Hamas’ assault this weekend is not yet clear, but Israeli officials have said there are dozens of captives.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena said on Sunday that two Mexican nationals, a woman and a man, have “presumably” been taken hostage by Hamas.
Meanwhile, at least three Brazilian nationals are also missing, according to Brazilian authorities.
The Hamas launched the surprise attack on Israeli towns adjacent to the Gaza Strip, prompting Israel to launch retaliatory strikes on Gaza.
During the attack, Hamas militants broke through the security fence that separate the Gaza Strip from Israel and stormed nearby communities, killing and capturing Israelis.
On Sunday, Israel declared a war on Gaza, attacking the besieged coastal enclave with airstrikes that were still continuing as of Monday morning.
Since the conflict erupted, more than 700 people have been killed in the Jewish state, while over 400 Palestinians were also dead, according to authorities,.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people are still reported missing.
Among the victims are at least 260 people whose bodies were found at the site of a music festival near the Israel-Gaza border.
Hamas capabilities severely degraded in airstrikes: Israel forces
As airstrikes continued to pound the Gaza Strip on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed to have “severely degraded the capabilities” of the Palestinian Hamas militant group.
In a statement, the IDF said that it targeted a structure that housed Hamas operatives and several of the militant group’s operational command centres, including a three-floor facility, reports CNN.
According to the IDF, the other targets include a command centre belonging to a senior Hamas naval forces operative named Mahmad Kashta; a Hamas operational asset in a mosque in Jabalia city; and an intelligence and additional asset used by the militant group.
Since Israel declared war on Hamas on Sunday a day after the militant group launched an unprecedented surprise attack on southern Israel, the Jewish state has continued pounding the besieged coastal enclave with airstrikes.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people are still reported missing, while thousands others were injured in the attacks.
In its latest update, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the violence has displaced 123,000 Palestinians in Gaza with close to 74,000 seeking shelter in schools, “as heavy shelling and airstrikes continue including on civilian areas”.
“UNRWA school sheltering displaced families in the Gaza Strip was directly hit today (Sunday). The school, sheltering more than 225 people, was severely damaged. No casualties were recorded among the displaced,” the Agency said in a statement late Sunday.