Gaza Health Ministry says at least 198 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes

Gaza Health Ministry says at least 198 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes

Over 1,600 others also injured in ongoing escalation, according to latest update

By Ahmed Asmar

ANKARA (AA) - Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip launched after a Hamas offensive has killed at least 198 Palestinians, the territory's Health Ministry said on Saturday.

In an update on its Facebook account, the ministry said over 1,600 Palestinians were also wounded.

Israel initiated Operation Iron Swords in Gaza in retaliation to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood by Hamas forces into Israel earlier in the day.

Israeli army is "initiating a large-scale operation to defend Israeli civilians against the combined attack launched against Israel by Hamas this morning," it said in a statement.

Many Israelis are said to be killed in the Palestinian operation, with many others claimed to have been held as captives, but Anadolu could not verify the numbers.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh described the attack "heroic epic in response to Israel’s aggression against Al Aqsa” Mosque and settler violence. Hundreds of Israeli settlers forced their way into the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, said it targeted enemy sites, airports, and military installations with rockets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is in a state of war, and his army's priority is to "clear out the hostile forces".

Gaza Health Ministry says at least 198 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes

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