Palestinian terrorist group Hamas carried out one of the deadliest attacks on the sovereign state of Israel on Saturday.
The death toll from that terrorist attack continues to rise, as several international news agencies say that over 800 Israelis and 300 Palestinians are confirmed dead.
The attack, the Israeli government says, is the bloodiest terrorist attack since the Jewish state was created in 1948.
A shocked Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised a reprisal attack that would shake Hamas, civilians living in Gaza, and the entire Arab world.
“Our enemy will pay a price the type of which it has never known. We are in a war, and we will win it,” Netanyahu said.
Who is Hamas?
Hamas is a Palestinian political and militant organisation with a significant presence in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory along the eastern Mediterranean coast. Another name for Hamas is the Islamic Resistance Movement.
It was founded in 1987 during the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule) and is considered a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas has both political and armed wings.
Hamas’s political wing governs the Gaza Strip, where it won parliamentary elections in 2006 and took control of the territory in 2007 after violent clashes with its rival, Fatah, which controls the West Bank.
The political leadership of Hamas is responsible for the administration of Gaza, including services and governance.
Hamas’s military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is responsible for conducting armed operations, including rocket attacks and other military actions against Israel.
They have been involved in conflicts and hostilities with Israel for years, with their primary goal being the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, and the removal of Israeli forces from these territories.
Ismail Haniyeh is the chairman of Hamas, while Saleh al-Arouri is the deputy chairman.
The islamist group was founded by Ahmed Yassin Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, Mahmoud Zahar Mohammad Taha Abdel Fattah Dukhan Ibrahim Fares Al-Yazouri, ‘Isa al-Nashshar Ibrahim Quqa, and Mohammed Hassan Shama’a Hassan Yousef.
How did Hamas breach the heavily fortified Israeli defence?
Find below a comprehensive Al Jazeera account of how Hamas penetrated Israel’s defences and carried out one of the deadliest attacks since Israel fought Egypt and Syria 50 years ago:
The attack commenced around 6:30 a.m. (03:30 GMT) when Hamas launched a significant barrage of rockets into southern Israel. Sirens were heard as far away as Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
According to Hamas, they initiated the attack with an initial volley of 5,000 rockets, whereas Israel’s military reported 2,500 rockets fired.
Smoke engulfed residential areas in Israel, prompting people to seek shelter behind buildings. Tragically, at least one woman lost her life due to the rocket strikes.
Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, declared the beginning of “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
He stated that the first strike targeted enemy positions, airports, and military fortifications, launching over 5,000 missiles and shells.
The rocket attack served as a diversion for a multi-pronged infiltration by Palestinian fighters. At 7:40 a.m. (04:40 GMT), the Israeli military confirmed that Palestinian fighters had crossed into Israel.
Most fighters entered through security breaches along the Gaza-Israel border. Notably, one Hamas soldier was captured on video flying over the border in a powered parachute.
Another group of fighters arrived via a motorboat heading towards Zikim, an Israeli coastal town housing a military base.
A video clip revealed at least six motorcyclists, accompanied by fighters, crossing through a hole in a metal barrier. A photograph released by Hamas showed a bulldozer tearing down a section of the fence.
By 9:45 a.m. (06:45 GMT), explosions were heard in Gaza.
At 10:00 a.m. (07:00 GMT), Israel’s military spokesperson announced that the air force had initiated attacks in Gaza.
By 10:00 am (07:00 GMT), Israel’s military reported that Palestinian fighters had infiltrated at least three military installations along the border: the Beit Hanoon border crossing (referred to as Erez by Israel), the Zikim base, and the Gaza division headquarters at Reim.
Videos from Hamas depicted fighters advancing towards a burning building near a high concrete wall with a watchtower.
It appeared that fighters had partially taken control of an Israeli military facility, using the wall as cover while engaging in combat.
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chief of Hamas in the occupied West Bank, issued a call to arms, urging resistance fighters in the West Bank to join the battle.
Subsequently, several captured Israeli military vehicles were observed being driven into Gaza and showcased in a parade.
One of the painful parts of the attack was captured in a video that found its way to X, formerly known as Twitter, where Hamas fighters attacked a group of party fun seekers at a border town close to Gaza.
Members of the terrorist group killed many of them, as many others ran for safety. Some of the victims are citizens of Germany, the U.S., and other European countries.