Israel Declares War on Gaza After Deadly Rocket Attack

In a dramatic escalation of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the nation to be “at war” on Saturday. This declaration followed a surprise early-morning attack in which Palestinian militants fired a deadly barrage of rockets into Israel and sent armed gunmen into Israeli territory.

According to Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency rescue service, the attack has tragically resulted in at least 22 fatalities and over 250 injuries. This offensive occurred on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 War, when Arab states launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

The Israeli military reported that around 2,200 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel during this morning onslaught. Simultaneously, armed militants infiltrated across the border, launching a ground assault into southern Israel.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza and claimed responsibility for the attack, asserted that it had captured several Israeli soldiers near the border after its fighters entered Israel using various means, including paragliders. While Israel’s military has not officially confirmed these reports of soldiers being captured, there was video footage published by Reuters that seemed to show Palestinian gunmen pulling an Israeli soldier out of a tank near the Gaza fence.

Furthermore, MDA reported that one of their ambulances had been taken into the Gaza Strip.

Hamas referred to this operation as “Al-Aqsa Storm,” with the group’s military commander, Muhammad Al-Deif, declaring that they had targeted Israeli positions, airports, and military sites with thousands of rockets. They cited this assault as a response to attacks on women, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the ongoing blockade of Gaza.

Residents look at the wreckage of destroyed vehicles in Ashkelon, a coastal city in southern Israel, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. – Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
People try to extinguish fire on cars following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. – Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched strikes against numerous Hamas targets in Gaza and issued a call-up of thousands of reservists. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht confirmed that Israeli forces were engaged in ground combat in multiple locations, including villages, army bases, and border crossings. Reports from residents indicated that some militants were attempting to breach homes, seeking assistance from Israeli forces.

Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would “pay a price it has never known” for the attack, emphasizing that Israel was now at war, not just conducting an operation or rounds of conflict. The IDF warned residents living near Gaza to stay in their homes or seek shelter.

The IDF released a statement holding the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for the attack, emphasizing that it is the sovereign authority in Gaza and would face the consequences.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog acknowledged the gravity of the situation, offering support to the IDF, security forces, rescue services, and all residents affected by the attacks.

The initial rocket barrage began early in the morning, at a time when most Israelis would have been asleep. It is rare for Palestinian militants to infiltrate Israel from Gaza, as the border is heavily secured and monitored by Israel’s military.

Reports suggested that infiltrators from Gaza entered Kibbutz Beeri, and there were unconfirmed reports of hostages taken in Netiv HaAsara. Social media footage also showed masked gunmen in a pickup truck in the Israeli city of Sderot, where gunfire could be heard.

Tragically, one woman lost her life in southern Israel, and at least 15 people were wounded in the attacks. The injured individuals included two in critical condition, six in moderate condition, and seven with minor injuries.

Residents in the Gaza Strip flee their homes. – Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke billows from a residential building following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. – Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

MDA teams were responding to missile strikes and live firing incidents, urging people to follow authorities’ instructions and seek shelter promptly during alarm sirens. They also appealed for blood donations, organizing a special drive in Tel Aviv due to an urgent need.

The rocket attacks prompted sirens across various regions, from Tel Aviv to Beer Sheva, and beyond. Social media footage showed the aftermath of a rocket strike in Ashkelon, with burning cars near an apartment complex and thick black smoke billowing into the air.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held security assessments at Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv in response to the crisis.

Smoke is seen in the area of Rehovot, a city in central Israel, as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip. – Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, is an isolated coastal enclave housing nearly 2 million people in a mere 140 square miles. Governed by Hamas, it has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007, which restricts the movement of civilians and controls the importation of essential goods. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border crossing at Rafah.


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