Israeli forces are responding to an unprecedented early-morning attack by Islamist Hamas militants by launching strikes by land and air on the Gaza Strip following weeks of rising tensions along the region’s volatile border.
Saturday’s surprise attack from Hamas, which came during a major Jewish holiday and followed the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, has led to Israel’s deadliest day in at least 75 years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “we are at war, and we will win it.”
Netanyahu called on Palestinian civilians in Gaza to “leave now” because the Israeli military is going to “turn all Hamas hiding places into rubble.”
Hamas forces invaded areas of southern Israel as rockets launched from the Gaza Strip struck the area, killing at least 250 Israelis in a surprise attack.
A senior Hamas military commander, Mohammad Deif, called on Palestinians everywhere to attack the Israelis, saying that the stateless group launched 5,000 rockets in what he called, “the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth.”
Sirens sounded across Israel and as far north as the contested city of Jerusalem from about 7am on Saturday after volleys of what Hamas claimed were 5,000 rockets launched from the blockaded enclave.
A ground infiltration by Hamas gunmen into Israeli towns and villages on the periphery – an unprecedented development in the 16 years since the Islamists took over the strip – is ongoing, with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) saying that at one point, seven villages and towns were under Hamas control.
The Israeli army put the number of projectiles at about 2,200.
In response to the attacks, which appear to have caught the Israeli security services by surprise, Israel has declared a state of war.
American political leaders issued statements condemning this morning’s Hamas terror attack in Israel that has left scores of Israeli men, women, and children dead and wounded.
Reports have also indicated that terrorists have kidnapped Israelis and taken them into Gaza. The attacks were carried out with a high degree of coordination, by land, sea, and air.
More than 5,000 Hamas rockets were fired at Israeli cities across the country.
President Joe Biden reaffirmed the United States’ “unwavering” support for Israel’s security and warned against taking advantage of the “appalling” attacks.
“This ignominious, unprovoked, and barbaric attack on Israel must be met with world condemnation and unequivocal support for the Jewish state’s right to self-defense. We must provide Israel with whatever it needs to defend itself — now. As President, I’ll make sure that our policy is unambiguous so that the enemies of Israel will think long and hard before attempting aggression of any kind.
“I applaud the strong statements of support from the Biden White House for Israel in her hour of need. However, the scale of these attacks means it is likely that Israel will need to wage a sustained military campaign to protect its citizens,” said Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “Statements of support are fine, but we must follow through with unwavering, resolute, and practical action. America must stand by our ally throughout this operation and beyond as it exercises its sovereign right to self-defense.”
“Today is devastating for all those seeking a lasting peace and respect for human rights in Israel and Palestine,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “I condemn Hamas’ attack in the strongest possible terms. No child and family should ever endure this kind of violence and fear, and this violence will not solve the ongoing oppression and occupation in the region. An immediate ceasefire and de-escalation is urgently needed to save lives.”
“I strongly condemn the horrific attacks by Hamas and am saddened by the loss of precious lives, especially on the holy day of Simchat Torah,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman. “We need a way to end this deadly violence that is killing and traumatizing generations of Israelis and Palestinians alike — including the blockade of Gaza. I have been to the Gaza border and know that Israelis and Palestinians are constantly living in fear. We must work harder to ensure peace in the region.”
Democrat Marianne Williamson did not appear to have anything to say in the wake of today’s attack but in the past she said, “It’s not anti-Arab to criticize Hamas any more than it’s anti-American to criticize neo-Nazis or anti-Jew to criticize Netanyahu.”
Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Disgraced former president Donald Trump and other Republican 2024 contenders for the White House sought to blame Biden for the attack, hoping to divide Americans instead of recognizing the foreign adversaries that are truly responsible.
Members of Congress, operating without a House speaker, provided assurances that the United States would stand by Israel and Biden’s allies pushed back against the spread of disinformation from the president’s political opponents.
“Today, the Palestinian movement is more alive than it has ever been during these 70 or 80 years,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian leader who issued a statement entitled: The usurper Zionist regime is coming to an end. “Today, the Palestinian youth and the Palestinian movement, the anti-occupation, anti-oppression, anti-Zionism movement, is more energetic, more alive, and more prepared than ever, and you can see this.”
The Hamas military operation has killed at least 250 Israelis and left thousands more injured, according to the national emergency service Maged David Adom.
Israeli strikes have killed at least 230 people in the Gaza Strip and injured about 1,700, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Israeli authorities said an unknown number of Israeli civilians, soldiers, and commanders have been taken captive by Hamas, which indicated it wants to trade them for militants imprisoned in Israel.