Seventeen British nationals, including children, are feared dead or missing in Israel after an attack by Hamas, Sky News understands.
Three Britons are already confirmed to have died in the weekend’s attack.
At least 1,200 Israelis are dead and more than 2,700 have been wounded, according to the latest figures supplied by the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces).
The latest information from Gaza’s Health Ministry said that at least 1055 Palestinians have been killed and 5,184 wounded in Israeli strikes.
Israeli warplanes hammered the Gaza Strip through the night into Wednesday morning, reducing buildings to rubble and reportedly striking over 450 targets.
Its air force has also targeted southern Lebanon, with Israel claiming to have struck a Hezbollah lookout position in retaliation for cross-border fire.
Meanwhile, Israel has stopped entry of food, fuel and medicines into Gaza, and the sole remaining access from Egypt shut down on Tuesday after airstrikes hit near the border crossing, with the violence expected to escalate further.
To many of the 2.3 million residents in the Gaza Strip, the mobilisation and intense bombardment raise fears of a ground invasion that may surpass Israel’s incursions in 2008 and 2014.
One Israeli security source said a ground offensive now looked inevitable, while Sky News military analyst Michael Clarke believes Israel would prefer a multi-pronged attack into Gaza, probably from the land and sea simultaneously.
It comes as Israel vowed to “wipe out” Hamas after claiming children were burnt alive, beheaded and shot in the head, a government minister from the country told Sky News.
Israel’s economics minister Nir Barkat said its military operation would continue until there was a “clear white flag” and there was a “more moderate” replacement for the militant group that rules in the Gaza Strip.
“Just now, we have heard of 40 young boys, some of them were burnt alive, some were beheaded, some were shot in the head,” the minister told Sky’s Mark Austin – although the Israeli Defence Force has not confirmed this.
Mr Barkat added: “The whole country is united to take Hamas out of this world, to take them out. All the militants, all the infrastructure, the people supporting Hamas. We will wipe them out.
“We’re coming in to kill the militants, and any civilians [should] move aside. If you do not move aside and you’re giving cover to the Hamas militants, you’re risking your life.
“We do not want to hurt innocent people.”
Gaza ‘running out of power’
As violence escalates, Jalal Ismail, from Gaza’s energy authority, said power will run out in the city by the afternoon.
“The power plant will stop working completely today at 2pm (12pm UK time), due to the exhaustion of the amount of fuel needed to operate it,” he said.
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