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Hamas fighters storm Israeli towns in surprise attack; Israel responds with deadly strikes on Gaza

Hamas militants have 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

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hamas militants broke out of the blockaded Gaza Strip and rampaged through nearby Israeli communities, killing at least 250 people and abducting others in an unprecedented surprise attack during a major Jewish holiday Saturday. Israel responded with strikes in Gaza that killed 232 and signaled more as its prime minister said the country is at war and vowed to inflict an “unprecedented price.”

In an assault of startling breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip, including towns and other communities as far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border. In some places they gunned down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response.

Gun battles continued well after nightfall, and militants held hostages in standoffs in two towns. Militants occupied a police station in a third town, where Israeli forces struggled until Sunday morning to finally reclaim the building.

Twenty-four hours after the start of the Hamas attack, the Israeli military had still not given an all-clear. In some towns, civilians’ bodies lay where they had encountered advancing gunmen. At least nine people gunned down at a bus shelter in the town of Sderot were laid out on stretchers on the street, their bags still on the curb nearby. One woman, screaming, embraced the body of a family member sprawled under a sheet next to a toppled motorcycle.