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Hamas says it is holding dozens of Israeli soldiers captured in surprise incursion
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated Israel is now at “war” with militant group Hamas after a massive show of force that caught Israel off-guard on a major holiday. (Oct. 7)

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BY JOSEF FEDERMAN AND ISSAM ADWAN
Updated 9:40 AM MST, October 7, 2023
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JERUSALEM (AP) — The Hamas militant group says it is holding “dozens” of Israeli soldiers captive in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Obeida, spokesman for the group’s military wing, said the soldiers, including some officers, were captured during a surprise infiltration into southern Israel on Saturday.

He said the captives were being held in “safe places” and militant tunnels.

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If true, the claim could set the stage for complicated negotiations on a prisoner swap with Israel, which is holding thousands of Palestinians in its prisons.

Israel in the past has agreed to lopsided exchanges in order to bring captive soldiers home.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hamas militants fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of fighters into Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented surprise early morning attack during a major Jewish holiday Saturday, killing dozens and stunning the country. Israel said it is now at war with Hamas and launched airstrikes in Gaza, vowing to inflict an “unprecedented price.”

Hours after the incursion began, Israeli troops were still fighting Hamas gunmen in 22 locations near the Gaza Strip, including towns and other communities, army spokesman Daniel Hagari said — a startling sign of the breadth of the assault.

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Israel’s national rescue service said at least 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded, making it the deadliest attack in Israel in years. An unknown number of Israeli soldiers and civilians were also seized and taken into Gaza, an enormously sensitive issue for Israel. Hagari said militants were holding hostages in standoffs in two towns, Beeri and Ofakim, which is 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border.

At least 198 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed and at least 1,610 wounded in Israel’s retaliation, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Airstrikes in the evening flattened a 14-story residential tower that also holds Hamas offices in central Gaza City. Israeli fired a warning just before, and the number of casualties was not immediately known.

The strength, sophistication and timing of the attack shocked Israelis. Hamas fighters used explosives to break through the border fence enclosing the long-blockaded Mediterranean territory, then crossed with motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders and speed boats on the coast.

Bodies of dead Israeli civilians and Hamas militants were seen on streets of Israeli towns. Associated Press photos showed an abducted elderly Israeli woman surrounded by gunmen being brought back into Gaza on a golf cart and another woman squeezed between two fighters on a motorcycle. Images on social media appeared to show fighters parading what seemed to be captured Israeli military vehicles through Gaza streets and a dead Israeli soldier being dragged and trampled by crowd of Palestinians.

The conflict threatene