…..the enemy will pay, says Benjamin Netanyahu, Isreali Prime Minister
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, unleashed a devastating assault on Israel on Saturday, marking the largest attack in years. The assault resulted in the tragic loss of at least 40 lives, with hundreds more injured as reported by Reuters.
However, other international media agencies say more than 160 lives have been lost in the Hamas attack including the retaliatory attack from the Isreali army.
This unexpected and brazen attack was characterised by a dual-pronged approach, featuring gunmen crossing into Israeli territory, coupled with a relentless barrage of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government, attributing this assault to Hamas, which is known to be backed by Iran, declared that the group had effectively declared war. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed clashes with militants in various Israeli towns and military installations near the Gaza border.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently vowed to respond resolutely, stating, “Our enemy will pay a price the type of which it has never known. We are in a war, and we will win it.”
The toll on Israeli civilians was devastating, with at least 40 people killed and hundreds wounded. Regrettably, these numbers were anticipated to rise further. Witnesses on the ground reported the horrifying sight of multiple bodies strewn across the streets of the southern town of Sderot.
In response to the Hamas assault, Israel initiated air strikes targeting Gaza, resulting in heavy explosions and numerous casualties. Gaza City was heavily bombarded, leading to billowing plumes of black smoke engulfing the sky.
This escalating conflict escalated further as Hamas’ deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, declared the group’s detention of a significant number of Israeli captives, including senior officials.
Hamas claimed that its offensive was a direct consequence of what it deemed to be Israel’s escalated attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and within Israeli prisons.
Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif proclaimed the commencement of the operation, rallying Palestinians to join the fight, stating, “This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” while reiterating the group’s longstanding goal of Israel’s destruction. This dire situation reignited tensions between Israel and Hamas, reminiscent of their 10-day war in 2021.
Notably, this attack marked a critical breach into Israeli territory as an undisclosed number of Hamas gunmen infiltrated from the Gaza Strip. This event is arguably the most severe blow to Israel in its conflict with Palestinians since the Second Intifada’s suicide bombings nearly two decades ago.
Meanwhile, the militant Islamic Jihad group announced its involvement in the attacks, claiming to hold several Israeli soldiers hostage.
Disturbing footage circulating on Hamas’ social media accounts showed purported Israeli captives being taken alive into Gaza, with images of Israeli soldiers being pulled out of tanks. The Israeli military, however, declined to comment on these reports.
Israeli media reported gun battles between Palestinian fighters and security forces in southern Israeli towns, with reports of Israeli hostages in Ofakim. Israel’s police chief reported “21 active scenes” in southern Israel, reflecting the widespread violence unfolding in the region.
The people of Gaza, in anticipation of prolonged conflict, rushed to stock up on supplies, while some evacuated their homes, seeking refuge in shelters. U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland denounced the attacks on Israel, urging all parties to de-escalate the situation before it reached the point of no return.
The international community, including the United States and other Western capitals, condemned the violence unequivocally. White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson stated, “The United States unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism.”
In a harrowing account as captured by Reuters, a woman named Dorin, from the kibbutz near Gaza, pleaded for help as militants infiltrated her home, attempting to breach her bomb shelter.
She described the dire situation, with her husband trying to keep the assailants at bay. The Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, authorised the call-up of reservists, emphasising that troops were engaged in combat throughout the region.
This alarming escalation of violence occurred amid ongoing clashes between Israel and Palestinian militants in the West Bank, an area integral to the longstanding Palestinian quest for statehood, in conjunction with the Gaza Strip.
Additionally, Israel grappled with internal political divisions and changes to its judiciary system, while Washington worked to broker a normalisation deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia urged an “immediate cessation of violence between Israeli and the Palestinians,” emphasising the need for a peaceful resolution. Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese group, regarded this operation as a decisive response to Israel’s continued occupation, and it was seen as a message to those contemplating normalisation with Israel. An adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, congratulated Palestinian fighters for their actions.
Hamas’ media outlets showcased videos depicting what they claimed were Israeli soldiers brought into Gaza by fighters. Palestinian gunmen were also purportedly seen inside Israeli homes and patrolling an Israeli town in jeeps driven into Israel by the attackers.
Reuters was unable to immediately verify the authenticity of this footage. Additionally, Hamas’ media shared video footage apparently depicting a destroyed Israeli tank.
In Gaza, the sounds of rocket launches reverberated, and residents reported armed confrontations along the separation fence with Israel, near the southern town of Khan Younis. Palestinians in Gaza braced themselves for Israel’s response, with many expressing fear and uncertainty.
This significant escalation of hostilities occurred just one day after Israel commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war, a conflict that brought the nation perilously close to catastrophic defeat in a surprise attack by Syria and Egypt.
The situation on the ground remains fluid and tense, with both sides bracing for further developments in this ongoing conflict, Reuters reported.