Israel declares State of War as Hamas launches surprise attacks.
In the realm of global geopolitics, unexpected developments can trigger seismic shifts. Israel has officially declared a state of war in response to a sudden and unexpected wave of attacks by Hamas from Gaza. The ongoing conflict has resulted in the loss of at least 150 lives, with over 1,100 individuals reported as injured, as confirmed by Israeli authorities.
In a startling turn of events, the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, caught Israel off guard on Saturday with its most significant attack in decades. Gunmen infiltrated Israeli villages, resulting in dozens of casualties and the taking of hostages into the Gaza Strip.
“Citizens of Israel, we are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video address to the nation. “This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours.”
Israel swiftly responded with a massive barrage of airstrikes deep within the coastal enclave, causing numerous casualties and injuries. Their promise of an unprecedented retaliation loomed in the air.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sternly declared, “Our adversary will pay an unprecedented price, one it has never before encountered. We are engaged in a war, and we are determined to emerge victorious.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, with confidence, stated that the assault that commenced in Gaza would extend to the West Bank and Jerusalem. He asserted, “This morning has brought defeat and humiliation upon our foe, its soldiers, and its settlers. What unfolded highlights the magnitude of our readiness, while simultaneously exposing the vulnerability of the enemy.”
In southern Israel, near Gaza, scenes of chaos and despair unfolded. Israeli civilians lay strewn across a highway in Sderot, surrounded by shattered glass. Lifeless bodies occupied car seats, as a military vehicle passed by another grim scene of tragedy.
“Over the past half an hour, barrages of rockets have been launched by the Hamas terrorist organization from Gaza into Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement early Saturday morning. “We urge the public in southern and central Israel to stay near protected areas and follow the instructions of the Home Front Command.”
According to Israel’s N12 News, the death toll climbed to a staggering 100 Israelis. Israeli security forces reported ongoing gun battles at 21 different locations, with infiltrators. Their navy had also engaged, resulting in casualties among Palestinians attempting to infiltrate by sea.
In Gaza, dark plumes of smoke and fiery orange flames filled the evening sky, emanating from a high-rise tower struck by an Israeli retaliatory strike. Mourners carried the bodies of freshly fallen militants through the streets, draped in green Hamas flags.
Gaza’s health officials grimly reported that over 198 Palestinians had been killed, and more than 1,600 had sustained injuries. Hospitals struggled with crumbling infrastructure, overcrowding, and critical shortages of medical supplies and equipment.
Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri disclosed to Al Jazeera that the group was holding a significant number of Israeli captives, including senior officials. He boldly declared that Hamas possessed enough captives to compel Israel to release all Palestinians detained in its prisons
The Israeli military confirmed that Israeli citizens were indeed held captive in Gaza, with soldiers and officers having been killed in the conflict. They further asserted their readiness to mobilize hundreds of thousands of reservists and their preparedness for potential hostilities with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group to the north.
Hamas, an advocate for Israel’s destruction, claimed that their attack was in response to escalated Israeli actions against Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israeli prisons. They painted this as a significant step toward ending what they termed “the last occupation on earth.”
Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif declared, “This is the day of the greatest battle, aimed at ending the last occupation on earth,” in a broadcast on Hamas media, rallying Palestinians to join the fight.
While Hamas has engaged in four wars against Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, the scenes of violence within Israel itself were reminiscent of the Palestinian Intifada uprising from two decades ago.
The unexpected nature of this attack caught Israel’s security forces off guard, marking one of the country’s most significant intelligence failures. This was a startling revelation for a nation that prided itself on its intensive infiltration and monitoring of militant groups.
The militant Islamic Jihad group also claimed involvement in the attacks and announced that they were holding Israeli soldiers captive. Hamas shared footage on its Telegram account depicting its fighters extracting Israeli soldiers from a tank.
Amidst the chaos, a woman named Dorin from the kibbutz near Gaza pleaded for help over the phone, describing how militants had infiltrated her house and were attempting to breach the bomb shelter where she sought refuge. The situation was dire, with numerous homes affected and residents living in fear.
In anticipation of days of conflict ahead, residents of Gaza, a narrow strip home to 2.3 million Palestinians under Israeli blockade for 16 years, rushed to secure supplies. Some evacuated their homes, seeking shelter from the impending violence.
Clashes at the border into Israel resulted in numerous Palestinian casualties and hundreds of injuries. Among the casualties were civilians, including those who attempted to cross into Israel through damaged gates.
Western nations, led by the United States, unequivocally condemned the Palestinian attack and expressed unwavering support for Israel. President Joe Biden affirmed, “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people,” warning against any hostile actions toward Israel.
Across the Middle East, demonstrations in support of Hamas erupted, with protesters burning Israeli and U.S. flags in various countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Iran and Hezbollah openly praised Hamas’s attack.
U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland condemned the attacks on Israel and urged all parties to step back from the brink of further escalation.
The latest escalation unfolds against the backdrop of heightened violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This area, where a Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, faces opposition from Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction.
Internal political upheaval within Israel has added to the tension, as the nation grapples with significant governmental changes, including judicial reforms.
Simultaneously, Washington has been pursuing a deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a move perceived as significant progress in Israel’s aspiration for recognition by its Arab neighbors. Palestinians, however, fear that such an agreement could jeopardize their hopes for an independent state.
“At this time, the IDF is reinforcing the south and the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip with several operational forces. Operational commanders are arriving to manage the combat in each location. In parallel to this, we have begun a wide mobilization of reservists for all IDF units,” said Rear. Admiral Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson, in a Telegram statement.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry called for an immediate halt to the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, emphasizing the need for peace and stability in the region.
Is this the official beginning of World War 3?