In a shocking turn of events, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a large-scale surprise attack against Israel on a fateful Saturday. The attack involved the firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza and sending ground units to engage in combat or abduct individuals. Israel responded with a series of air strikes in retaliation, leading to a significant escalation in the long-standing Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The day witnessed a tragic toll on both sides. In Israel, at least 40 people lost their lives, while Gaza authorities reported a staggering death toll of 198, marking one of the bloodiest escalations since May 2021. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “We are at war,” as the Israeli military initiated a series of strikes aimed at Iran-backed Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip. He vowed that the enemy would pay an unprecedented price for their actions.
Hamas launched this surprise attack around 6:30 am, unleashing thousands of rockets targeting towns and cities as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some of these rockets bypassed the Iron Dome defense system, hitting buildings in their path. Hamas fighters, employing various means including vehicles, boats, and even motorized paragliders, breached Gaza’s security barrier and launched attacks on nearby Israeli towns and military posts. This ignited gun battles and led to scenes of panic as residents sought refuge in bunkers. Tragically, bodies were seen lying on the streets of the town of Sderot near Gaza.
The situation became dire for many Israeli civilians, with some urgently pleading for help as militants opened fire on their homes. The intensity of the conflict was illustrated by the sight of armed Palestinians gathered around an Israeli tank in flames and others returning to Gaza City in a seized Israeli Humvee.
Israeli army Major General Ghasan Alyan issued a grim warning, stating that Hamas had “opened the gates of hell” and would face severe consequences for its actions. The Israeli army, in response, engaged Palestinian militants on the ground in multiple locations near the Gaza Strip, terming their operation “Swords of Iron.” Israeli authorities reported that 10 individuals in Israel were killed due to rocket fire and 30 by gunfire.
Hamas, on the other hand, claimed to have captured several Israelis, raising concerns of a broader escalation in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They released a video showing their fighters holding three men in civilian clothes, labeled as “enemy soldiers.”
The escalation followed months of rising tensions and violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians, particularly in the occupied West Bank, and tensions around Gaza’s border and contested holy sites in Jerusalem. Hamas named their attack “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” and called upon resistance fighters in the West Bank, as well as in Arab and Islamic nations, to join the battle.
In a statement, Hamas declared, “We decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation (Israel).” Their armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, asserted that the time for Israel’s actions without accountability had come to an end.
The unexpected large-scale attack launched by Hamas against Israel on that fateful Saturday resulted in a tragic loss of life on both sides. The conflict escalated quickly, with rockets fired at major cities and ground operations initiated. The situation remains tense, with international concern mounting and calls for de-escalation. The Israel-Palestinian conflict continues to be a deeply complex and volatile issue, with the potential for further violence hanging in the balance. The hope now lies in diplomatic efforts to bring an end to this devastating cycle of violence and pave the way for a more peaceful future in the region.