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Hundreds Killed After Hamas Launches Biggest Attack in Decades in Israel

More than 400 people have been killed while thousands of others have been injured, in Gaza and Israel after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas took Israel by surprise on Saturday (Oct 7) marking the deadliest day of violence in Israel since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the country was “at war” and swore fierce counterattack. 

The attack has also drawn some mixed reactions from across the world, where most Western countries, Ukraine and India have condemned the attacks on Israel and expressed solidarity with the Israelis. 

On the other hand, countries like Iran have celebrated it as a “proud operation” and Qatar said that they “held Israel solely responsible” for the escalation in violence. 

‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’

The Palestinian militant group launched over 5,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, marking the commencement of “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.” 

The Israeli media has reported that as many as 150 rockets fired into central Israel including the country’s major city of Tel Aviv, as of Saturday evening. 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the assault that had begun in Gaza would spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem. “This was the morning of defeat and humiliation upon our enemy, its soldiers and its settlers,” said the militant group leader. 

He added, “What happened reveals the greatness of our preparation. What happened today reveals the weakness of the enemy.” 

Israeli forces said that they are fighting Gaza militants who entered Israel by land, sea and air using paragliders following a barrage of rockets was fired at Israel. 

“It was a combined ground raid which happened through paragliders, through the sea and through the ground,” said army spokesman Richard Hecht. 

Israel has also reported 22 active locations inside the country where Israeli troops were still battling “hundreds” of Palestinian militants, adding that the Hamas attack included a “robust ground invasion”. 

More than 3,000 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, said the army spokesman. “There will be a severe response to this inhumane attack, it’s unprecedented,” said Hecht.

AFP journalists witnessed attackers gather around a burning Israeli tank, and others driving a seized Israeli military Humvee back into Gaza, where they were met by cheering crowds. Hamas chief said that the group was on the “verge of a great victory and a clear conquest on the Gaza front”. 

‘We are at war’

Netanyahu, in his first remarks after the attack, said, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war…” He also went on to outline a plan and called on the citizens to unite and achieve victory in the war. Israel has since called up reservists for an ongoing operation called “Swords of Iron”.

Netanyahu, addressing the nation in the evening called today’s events something “never before seen in Israel,” he vows to ensure “it will never happen again.”

He also vowed to use “all the power” of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to destroy Hamas’ capabilities. Addressing the “residents of Gaza” Netanyahu said, “get out now because we will operate everywhere with full force.”

This “black day” will be “avenged,” said the Israeli PM

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a statement said that the people of his country have full right to defend themselves against the “terror of settlers and occupation troops,” as per official news agency WAFA.

Death toll in Israel and Gaza crosses 400

Israeli media report citing the country’s health ministry and emergency services said that at least 200 people have been killed as of 9:30 pm (local time), and over 1,425 others have been injured and taken to hospitals. 

In southern Israel, near Gaza, Reuters reported that bodies of Israeli civilians lay strewn across a highway in Sderot. “I saw many bodies, of terrorists and civilians,” one man who gave his name as Shlomi told AFP in southern Israel.

An Israeli woman identified as Dorin told Israel N12 News that the militants had infiltrated her house. “They just came in again, please send help!” an Israeli woman who was sheltering with her two-year-old child in a bomb shelter pleaded. 

In Gaza, images show orange flames and black smoke in the evening sky after Israel launched its retaliatory strike, while on the ground, crowds of mourners were seen carrying bodies of militants killed through the streets, wrapped in green Hamas flags.

At least 232 Palestinians were killed and over 1,600 were wounded in Gaza, said the Palestinian health ministry after Israel responded with air strikes. 

Israelis held hostage

Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri told Al Jazeera that they are holding a large number of Israeli captives, including senior officials and said that they had enough captives to make Israel free all Palestinians in its jails. 

The Israeli military has since confirmed Israelis were being held captive in Gaza and soldiers and officers had been killed. Hecht reported a “severe hostage situation in Beeri and also in Ofakim” two Israeli communities near the Gaza border. 

The military said that the country could mobilise up to hundreds of thousands of reservists and was also prepared for war on its northern front against Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

Hamas has long advocated for Israel’s destruction and fought four wars against Israel since 2007 after it seized control of Gaza in 2007. 

The attack on Saturday came as a surprise to Israel’s security forces making it one of the worst intelligence failures in the country’s history. Israel’s ambassador to France Raphael Morav in an interview said that the country was not “sufficiently prepared” for the attack. “Following this surprise, we were not sufficiently prepared for it, we could even say barely prepared.” 

The attack also follows a recent rise in tensions with the Israeli army conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank, recent settler violence as well as deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis. 

Source : WION News