Following the surprise attacks by Hamas, the death toll in Israel has risen to at least 300: an Israeli official told CNN. According to Israeli media, more than 1,500 people were injured.
Fighting continued throughout the day and a new series of rocket attacks hit Tel Aviv and other areas on Saturday evening.
They are in the Gaza Strip at least 232 people killed and 1,650 injured in Israeli retaliatory air strikes in response to the Hamas missile attack
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to “leave Gaza” and he promised to reduce Hamas hideouts to “ruins.” “We will take revenge on Hamas for this black day,” the prime minister said in a speech to the nation in which he reiterated that “the army will use all its strength to undermine Hamas, we will hit them everywhere“. “What happened today had not been seen in Israel and I will ensure that it does not happen again.” According to the prime minister “it will be a war that will take time, it will be difficult, days of challenge are ahead of us.” Then he warned Hamas “not to harm a single hair of the hostages in Gaza”. “You – he added, addressing them – are part of the chain of heroes of Israel and we are all with you”.
New salvo of rockets in the central area of Israel and on Tel Aviv where the alarm sirens rang out for a long time. Numerous explosions in the sky due to the interception of rockets by the Iron Dome.
Dramatic escalation in the Middle East
Hamas declared war and put Israel in check. Taken by surprise, the Jewish state finds itself dealing with hundreds of deaths and unprecedented hostage-taking. At the first light of dawn, on the day that closes the Jewish holidays of Sukkot – as happened 50 years ago during Yom Kippur – 5,000 rockets rained down from Gaza, causing destruction and death. For hours, warning sirens rang out in the center and south of the country, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where people ran into shelters. The rocket launch was only the beginning of the conflict: from dozens of points along the border, armed Hamas militiamen (between 200 and 300) entered Jewish territory and the kibbutzim close to the Strip from heaven, earth and sea, taking civilians and soldiers hostage and killing others, while people ran to barricade themselves in shelters. Videos released on social media by sites close to Hamas show terrible scenes of the capture of hostages: according to the media there would be at least 50, but the number was not confirmed either by the military spokesperson or by the political authorities.
Clashes between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militiamen occurred in the border kibbutzim, from Ofakim and Beeri to Nirim and others: in the evening the army announced that fighting was still ongoing in 22 locations. Images spread on social media also showed the battle in the streets of Sderot, where Hamas allegedly took control of a police station. There was also tension in the West Bank, while in Gaza, as darkness fell, electricity was cut.
Netanyahu: “We are at war”
“Citizens of Israel, we are at war. It’s not just an operation, it’s a war”, announced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that he had given orders to the army to recall the reservists and to “respond to the war with an impetuosity and breadth that the enemy has never known before. They will pay a price that they have never had to pay, and in the end we will win.” The Israeli air force – according to the media after some uncertainty – began to pound the Strip with attacks that caused at least 232 deaths and almost 1,600 injuries, hitting Hamas and Jihad positions. According to the military spokesman, Hamas military infrastructure which was housed in two skyscrapers in central Gaza was also attacked. Doctors Without Borders spoke about two affected hospitals, the Indonesian Hospital and the Nasser Hospital. From the Strip, the elusive head of the military wing of Hamas, Mohammad Deif, defined the ‘Flood al-Aqsa’ operation as a response to the “desecration of holy places” and “detentions”. “We have warned the Zionist enemy several times – said Deif – but we have always received refusals”.
Hamas: “Battle for freedom”
While the deputy head of Hamas, Saleh al-Arouri, claimed that his organization is engaged in a battle “for freedom”. “This – he specified – is not a hit and run operation, we have started an all-out battle. We expect the fighting to continue and the combat front to expand. We have a primary objective: our freedom and the freedom of our holy places”. There are now many who fear that the situation will worsen in the north too, with a possible intervention by the Lebanese Hezbollah: some militiamen, according to the Israeli media, tried to breach the border line but were repelled with gunfire fired by Israeli soldiers. However, the news was denied by the Shiite militiamen. In Israel, people are holding their breath and wondering how it was possible to be caught so off guard by Hamas, fearing Iranian direction behind the attack.