2023 in photos: Israel-Hamas war

2023 in photos: Israel-Hamas war

(Reuters) - The last three months of 2023 have been marked by a war in the Middle East that has cost thousands of lives, left families across Israel and Gaza and further afield anxious or grieving, and destroyed homes and livelihoods.

The conflict flared on Oct. 7 when gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas crossed into southern Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

After firing a barrage of rockets for cover, the fighters raided border towns, kibbutzim and a music festival, gunning down civilians and seizing captives. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 hostages taken to Gaza.

Israel responded by vowing to destroy Hamas, and its retaliation was swift and fierce. It began intense aerial bombardment of Gaza, told residents in the north to evacuate to the south, then launched a ground assault, laying waste to much of the enclave.

Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations said more than 15,000 Gazans had been confirmed killed by early December, with thousands more missing and feared buried under rubble.

Many of the victims on both sides have been children.

Shifa Hospital, the biggest medical facility in Gaza, has been at the center of accusations of war crimes by both sides. Israel says Hamas located its operational structures at the site, in contravention of international law, while Palestinians accused Israel of targeting a medical facility.

The last week of November saw a truce to allow the daily release of hostages held by militants in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian detainees.

But after seven days during which women, children and foreign hostages were freed, mediators failed at the final hour to find a formula to extend the agreement. On the first day of December, the truce collapsed.

Here are a selection of Reuters photographs that tell the grim story of the first weeks of the conflict.

(Photography by Reuters; Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Daniel Wallis)