Israel declares ‘war’ after 22 killed in massive rocket attack by Hamas militants

05:23 PM Oct 07, 2023 | PTI |

Jerusalem: A surprise attack by Hamas militants from Gaza at daybreak killed at least 22 Israelis on Saturday even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “war” and said his country would extract an “unprecedented price” from its enemy.


Israel’s national rescue service said at least 22 people were killed and hundreds of others wounded in the Hamas military incursion, making the operation the deadliest in Israeli territory in years.

“We are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war. 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,” Netanyahu told his countrymen in a televised address.

“I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered, first of all, to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists. This is currently being carried out. At the same time, I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” he said in his first public comment since the attack began in the morning.

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) said it has launched operation ‘Iron Swords’ in response to Hamas’s surprise attack – by air, land and sea – comprising a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and infiltration into its heavily fortified border in the southern area that caught the country off-guard on a major holiday.


IDF spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters that more than 2,200 rockets have been fired into Israel since 6:30 AM. There are at least seven sites where Israeli troops were battling the infiltrators, Hagari added.

Hamas’ action is against what it termed as “aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” A senior commander from the Islamic faction Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has claimed that thousands of rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel.

Hamas also claimed it had launched 5,000 rockets towards Israel in the early morning barrage that it has called “Operation al-Aqsa Flood.”

A woman in her 60s was among those killed in a direct rocket hit in the southern Gderot area. Two other people are said to be seriously wounded, six moderately and seven with minor injuries, the medics of the rescue services said.

Israel’s Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant said, “The IDF troops are fighting against the enemy at every location. I call on all of Israel’s citizens to follow security instructions.”

Ha’aretz online reported quoting the Head of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif’s from his statement: “We warned the enemy not to continue its aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

“This is only the first stage,” of Hamas’ renewed efforts against Israel, he said.

Deif urged Arabs in Jerusalem and inside Israel, in the Negev, the Galilee and northern Israel to join the “revolution” and “set the earth on fire under the feet of the occupiers.”

Deif also called upon the “Islamic resistance” in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to “merge their resistance with that of the Palestinians,” and “start marching towards Palestine now.”

Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas, considered its leader in the West Bank, issued a similar statement calling on the Arab and Islamic nations to join “Operation al-Aqsa Flood.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, Ofir Liebstein, was killed during the fighting with the infiltrators.

“Ofir was killed when he went to defend a town during the terrorist attack,” the Council was quoted by local media as saying.

The Israeli military has issued instructions to the residents of towns near the Gaza Strip to remain in their homes, and the rest of the public to remain near bomb shelters.

Unconfirmed reports of people being taken hostages and kidnapping of soldiers have been doing the rounds, but they remain unverified.

The unprecedented attack meanwhile had led to internal unity with protest leaders calling off ongoing demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul plan and protesting soldiers, who were boycotting army duty, at once deciding to report for duty.

The serious invasion on Simchat Torah revived painful memories of the 1973 war practically 50 years to the day, in which Israel’s enemies launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur.


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