In an alarming turn of events, dozens of gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip following a series of rocket attacks. Israel has declared that it is “at war” in response to this unprecedented attack.
The militants breached Israel’s perimeter fence shortly after dawn, coinciding with barrages of rockets launched from Gaza. Tragically, at least one Israeli citizen has lost their life due to the infiltrating gunmen, and rocket attacks from Gaza have resulted in one fatality and hundreds of injuries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a stern warning, promising that Hamas will face consequences of an unprecedented magnitude. In response to these developments, the Israeli military has initiated air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza using numerous fighter jets and has mobilized tens of thousands of reservists.
These rocket attacks from Gaza commenced early on Saturday, occurring during the Jewish Sabbath and the Simchat Torah festival. As warning sirens blared across Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported that “terrorists” had infiltrated various locations within Israeli territory.
Civilian safety advisories have been issued in southern and central regions, urging individuals to remain close to shelters and take refuge inside in areas surrounding Gaza.
Video footage circulating online appears to depict heavily armed Palestinian militants in black fatigues driving through the town of Sderot. In one video clip, these militants appear to engage in a firefight with Israeli forces on the streets of Sderot, a town situated just 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from Gaza.
Unconfirmed reports from Palestinian media suggest that several Israelis may have been taken captive by militants, and there are images circulating showing Palestinians in Gaza operating Israeli military vehicles.
Details regarding the extent of Israeli casualties resulting from these attacks remain unclear. However, it has been confirmed that Ofir Liebstein, the leader of the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, was killed in an exchange of fire with militants while defending his community.
The rocket attacks from Gaza have continued throughout Saturday morning, with Israeli media reporting that over 2,500 projectiles have been launched towards Israel. Initial reports from Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service indicated one casualty from Palestinian rocket fire.
Subsequent reports indicated a significant number of casualties, with one hospital in the southern city of Ashkelon treating 68 individuals and another hospital in Beer Sheva attending to 80 additional patients.
Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war—not an operation, not an escalation, a war.” He further instructed security forces to counter the infiltrating terrorists and initiated an extensive reserve mobilization and retaliatory measures of unprecedented scale.
In response to these developments, a senior Hamas military commander, Mohammed Deif, declared the commencement of the operation and called on Palestinians worldwide to join the fight, characterizing it as a battle to end the last occupation on Earth.