In an unprecedented escalation of violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the country “at war” on Saturday after Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a deadly barrage of rockets and sent gunmen into Israeli territory. marking a serious escalation of the long-standing conflict between both parties.
The Israeli military reported that approximately 2,200 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, while armed terrorist groups infiltrated Israel by land, sea, and air, including using paragliders. Multiple explosions were heard over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and southern Israel; some of these were probably the interception of incoming rockets, while airstrikes led Israelis to take refuge in underground shelters.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that Hamas had taken “hostages and prisoners of war,” although it did not give an exact figure. At least 200 Israelis were reported dead and 1,452 injured, according to Israel’s emergency rescue service and Health Ministry.
Israel responded by launching attacks against what it called Hamas targets in Gaza. The Palestine Tower, a high-rise building housing residential apartments and media offices in Gaza City, was hit by an explosion and collapsed, according to videos.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 232 Palestinians had been killed and 1,697 wounded, but did not specify where the deaths occurred or whether the figure included Hamas militants or civilians in Gaza.
Tensions continue to rise, with new rocket fire by Gaza militants on Saturday night hitting multiple locations within Israel, including Tel Aviv, according to Israeli authorities.
Saturday’s surprise attack was unprecedented in its scale and scope, occurring on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 War, in which Arab states attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht stated that Israeli forces “are fighting on the ground right now,” mentioning multiple locations where the fighting was taking place, including several towns, military bases, and border crossings.
The surprise attack was described by former IDF international spokesman Jonathan Conricus as a “Pearl Harbor-type moment” for the country. “The entire system failed. It’s not just one component; it’s the entire defense architecture that clearly failed to provide the necessary defense for Israeli civilians,” he said.
As the situation continues to develop, the international community has condemned the attacks. US President Joe Biden affirmed his administration’s strong support for Israel’s security and its right to defend itself. European leaders and other countries have also expressed their solidarity and condemnation of the violence, as the conflict continues to evolve in this region besieged by violence.