Israel confirms Hamas holds military, civilian hostages in Gaza

Hamas captured multiple Israeli soldiers and civilians in attacks early Saturday and is holding them hostage, an Israeli military spokesperson confirmed, according to The Associated Press.

The Palestinian militant group launched the largest attack on Israel in decades early Saturday, invading multiple Israeli towns from Gaza and launching missiles into the country.

Israeli media outlet N12 claimed that 52 people had been captured by Hamas militants, citing unconfirmed reports.

The Palestinian government has claimed that 232 people have died in the fighting, and Israeli local media has claimed an additional 250 casualties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the conflict a “war” in a public address early Saturday.

“We are at war,” he said. “Not an ‘operation,’ not a ‘round,’ but at war.”

“The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” he added, promising that Israel would “return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known.”

The attacks, nearly 50 years to the day after the 1973 Yom Kippur war, were met with shock and prompted widespread support for Israel from most world leaders and governments.

Governments in Europe and the U.S. have pledged to support Israel amid rising violence, while nations in the Middle East have mostly condemned Israel for its role in the ongoing conflict with Palestine.

“The U.S. unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians,” said Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council. “We stand firmly with the government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks.”

Updated 4:04 p.m.

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Gaza Hamas hostages Israel Israeli-Palestinian conflict N12 palestine The Associated Press