Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel is at war following a significant and surprising attack by the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, on Saturday. This event marks one of the most serious escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years.
Unprecedented Assault On Multiple Fronts
The Palestinian militant group launched the largest assault on Israel in years, combining gunmen infiltrating several Israeli towns with a barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Warning sirens blared across southern and central Israel, including Jerusalem. The infiltration by Hamas gunmen marks an unprecedented strategy, leading to gun battles between Palestinian fighters and Israeli security forces in southern Israeli towns.
Israeli media, including N12 News, reported at least 40 Israelis killed, with about 740 others wounded. Conversely, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza highlighted injuries among “many citizens,” though specific numbers have yet to be confirmed.
A Nation Mobilized
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in a televised address, announced a mass mobilization of the country’s army reserves. “We are at war,” Netanyahu stressed, differentiating the situation from previous “operations” or “rounds” of conflict.
Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, reiterated Netanyahu’s sentiment, stating, “Hamas made a grave mistake this morning and started a war against the State of Israel.”
The Israeli military responded swiftly, launching airstrikes into Gaza, with heavy explosions reported by witnesses. Concurrently, the IDF began an extensive mobilization of reserves for their military operation, named “Swords of Iron.”
As news of the attack spread globally, reactions poured in. The acting U.S. ambassador to Israel, Stephanie Hallett, condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians,” affirming the U.S.’s support for “Israel’s right to defend itself from such terrorist acts.”
The president of the European Commission shared this stance, expressing that Israel has the right to defend itself “against such heinous attacks.”
Saudi Arabia, which has been in discussions with the U.S. about normalizing relations with Israel, urged both sides to exercise restraint. They highlighted their longstanding concerns about the continued occupation and the deprivation of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.
U.S. leaders, including Senators Thom Tillis, Thom Tillis, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, also voiced their condemnations and support for Israel.
Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, connected the attack, named “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a significant religious site in Islam. The site has been a longstanding flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians. “Enough is enough,” Deif declared, rallying Palestinians across regions to join the conflict.
A Tense Atmosphere Grips the Region
In anticipation of prolonged conflict, residents of Gaza rushed to stockpile supplies, with many evacuating their homes for shelters.
Residents of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz near Gaza, described a unique fear, knowing terrorists were roaming their communities. Mirjam Reijnen, a volunteer firefighter in Nahal Oz, articulated the tense atmosphere, “With rockets we somehow feel safer… But knowing that terrorists are walking around communities is a different kind of fear.”
Anticipating The Next Steps
As Israel grapples with this sudden escalation, the nation and its allies brace themselves for what might unfold next. With both sides mobilized and the international community watching closely, the path ahead remains uncertain.
This story is developing and will be updated.