The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has launched the biggest attack on Israel in years, killing dozens and wounding hundreds in a surprise assault in which gunmen crossed into the country and rockets were fired from Gaza.
The Associated Press reported that at least 40 Israelis had been killed, but Israel’s Channel 12 put the death toll at 100. Newsweek has been unable as yet to verify these figures. Israel has responded with carrying out air strikes in the Gaza Strip, with local officials saying that 198 Palestinians have been killed, the BBC reported.
The Soroka Medical Center in the city of Beersheba said it was treating at least 280 casualties, with 60 in serious condition. The Barzilai Medical Center hospital in Ashkelon, near Gaza, said it was treating 182 wounded people, according to the AP, including 12 in critical condition.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “at war” and vowed that Hamas, Gaza’s rulers, will “pay a price it has never known”. Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri said that he expected fighting to continue and “the fighting front to expand. We have one prime target, our freedom and the freedom of our holy sites.”
Video shows the aftermath of the Hamas strikes and warning sirens across the south and center of the country, including in Jerusalem.
Social-media footage appeared to show clashes in the streets and gunmen in Jeeps roaming the countryside. Palestinian media reported that fighters had taken some Israelis captive, and Hamas media circulated video footage apparently showing a destroyed Israeli tank.
In a video address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “citizens of Israel. We are at war, not an operation, not an escalation, a war.”
One Israeli woman was killed, according to Israeli emergency services, as ambulance crews were deployed around the Gaza Strip where Israel’s military said it was operating, without giving further details, Reuters reported.
Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of security officials, and Israel’s military said it was on a war footing. His office has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden who “emphasized that the U.S. stands alongside Israel and fully supports Israel’s right to self-defense.”
Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif has called on Palestinians everywhere to fight and there were reports of gunbattles between Palestinian fighters and security forces in the the most serious escalation since Israel and Hamas fought a 10-day war in 2021. He said that 5,000 rockets had been launched in what he described as “the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on Earth.”
The Israeli military said its forces were operating inside Gaza and that residents in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip had been told to stay in their homes.
There were reports of armed clashes along the separation fence with Israel, near the southern town of Khan Yunis, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group said its fighters were joining Hamas.
Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas had launched a war against Israel and “has made a grave mistake.” He added that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops were “fighting against the enemy at every location” and “the State of Israel will win,” the BBC reported. The IDF said it was striking Hamas targets in Gaza.
“Israel is under attack,” wrote the country’s ambassador to the United States and retired IDF Brigadier General Michael Herzog on X (formerly Twitter).
“This offensive was launched while Israelis were celebrating a religious Jewish holiday,” Herzog wrote, adding that it “cannot and will not go unanswered, and we expect the free world to unequivocally condemn it and support Israel’s right to self defense.” Newsweek has contacted the IDF for comment.
Update 07/10/23, 4 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with further information.
Update 07/10/23, 6:51 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with the quote from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.