During attacks carried out by Hamas, thousands of rockets were fired at Israel on Saturday and dozens of Hamas militias could cross Israel’s heavily fortified borders for direct fight with Israeli forces.
This Saturday morning, and in one of the most serious rounds of clashes in recent years between Israel and the militant group ruling Gaza, Hamas gunmen managed to cross the border fence at several points and enter Israeli areas to directly fight Israeli forces. Meanwhile, Hamas militia could also fire thousands of rockets towards Israel, killing at least 22 so far and wounding dozens more.
Israel’s defense minister announced a few hours after the surprise attack that the militant group Hamas had launched “a full-scale war against Israel”, but he said this is a war “Israel will win.”
However, initial figures of the casualties of Saturday morning’s attacks show no victory for Israel as according to the “Red Star of David” rescue service in Israel, at least 22 people were killed and 250 injured in the surprise attack so far.
The military commander of Hamas, Mohammad al-Dazif, released a recorded message Saturday announcing the beginning of “the Al-Aqsa Storm Operation” and said that Hamas “targeted the enemy’s positions, airports, and military sites with 5,000 rockets.” Millions of Israelis were ordered to stay in bomb shelters in their homes and residential buildings following the rocket attacks that lasted more than 30 minutes.
The IDF warned Israelis who live near Gaza to stay in their homes or head to shelters. “In the last hour, the Hamas terrorist organization had begun a massive shooting of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory in a number of different locations,” the IDF said in a statement Saturday morning. Sirens warning of incoming rockets continued for at least three hours after the initial barrage.
Reactions to the attacks from Israel and beyond
Among the first who reacted to Hamas attacks was Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He declared a few hours after the arracks that Israel was at war. “Citizens of Israel, we are at war – not in an operation, not in rounds – at war,” Netanyahu said in a video message.
It was then IDF spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht who said in a briefing that Israeli forces “are fighting on the ground as we speak,” listing at least half a dozen locations where fighting is taking place. The locations include Erez Crossing, Nahal Oz, Magen, Kibbutz Beeri, Rehim Army Base, Ziikim Army base, Kfar Azza and Kibbutz Beeri.
The IDF spokesperson also said that Israel was responding to the attack by striking “a number of targets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.”
The attacks even attracted immediate international attention as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for the immediate release of Israeli hostages and ending the violence.
“News of civilians taken as hostages in their homes or to Gaza are appalling,” Borrell writes on Twitter, adding also that “this is against international law,” and that “Hostages must be released immediately.”
The rocket attack was carried out following a period of escalating tensions during recent weeks along Israel’s troubled border with the Gaza Strip, as well as heavy clashes in the occupied West Bank.
Combined attacks on Saturday, which happened while Israelis were spending their holidays of “Sukkot” and “Simhat Torah”, also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war known as “the Yom Kippur War.”