The al-Qassam armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas has given the citizens of Israeli city Ashkelon a deadline to leave the premises by 5 p.m. local time, in retaliation for the recent displacement of the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip.
The warning comes on day four of an ongoing lethal conflict between the group and the Israeli administration.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israel’s military said it had regained control of the Gaza-Israel border after Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel unprecedented in scope and deadliness.
Israel continues its airstrikes all over the enclosed territory of Gaza, and has ordered the complete cutting of water, electricity and food to the already impoverished and blockaded population of roughly 2.3 million people.
Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, said it has some 150 Israeli hostages in captivity. The U.S. and other governments are working to determine the number of foreign hostages in Hamas’ captivity.
The death toll from the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas has passed 1,500, with over 900 killed and 2,600 injured in Israel and at least 687 people killed and 3,700 injured in Gaza, according to Palestinian and Israeli health services.
Hamas’ devastating surprise attack on Israel over the weekend thrusts an obscure militant Palestinian group firmly into the global spotlight.
The ongoing violence raises questions about the history, motivations and future of Hamas — a group that has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Japan, Australia, Israel, the European Union and many other countries.
Founded in 1987, Hamas is one of two major political forces in the Palestinian territories and has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. The military wing of Hamas is known as the al Qassem Brigades, the largest and best-equipped military group operating within Gaza.