Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “We are at war, this is not an operation,” after Hamas launched thousands of missiles and seized villages near Gaza. The political leader of Hamas said that the ongoing attacks are a response to the Israeli treatment of Palestinians at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
On Saturday morning, fighters from Hamas invaded villages near Gaza. The group says its fighters used paratroops, ships, and cut through the border fence to conduct the operations. Hamas claims it have captured several Israeli soldiers and villages.
Human rights groups consider Gaza an “open-air prison.” Most Palestinians living in the region are refugees. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, with 2 million people living in 140 sq. miles. Israel severely restricts the amount of food, fuel, and water the people of Gaza can access.
Hamas used para-sails to fly over the border and destroyed parts of the Israeli fence to break out of Gaza. In addition to the ground operations, the Palestinian militia launched thousands of rockets into Israel, with cities such as Tel Aviv reporting damage. Reports say Hamas has fired between 2,000 and 5,000 munitions. Israeli officials say at least 660 have been killed and thousands wounded. The Palestinian Health Ministry reports 420 Palestinians have been killed and an estimated 2,000 wounded. Reports say between 13 and 21 Israeli villages were ‘infiltrated’ by Hamas.
An Israeli official said the Palestinian forces were able to capture the headquarters of an Israeli military unit near Gaza. “The headquarters of the Gaza division in camp Ra’im is under the control of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades,” the official explained.
Photos and videos on Twitter show Hamas returning to Gaza with captured Israeli military equipment. Additional images show Israeli Brigadier General Nimrod Aloni was captured by Hamas, although this has not been confirmed by either side.
Hours after the attack began, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the start of Operation Iron Swords. “We are at war, not an operation. Hamas has launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens,” he posted on Twitter. “I ordered first of all to cleanse the settlements of the terrorists who had infiltrated and ordered a large-scale mobilization of reserves. The enemy will pay a price he has never known.”
A spokesman for the Israeli military, Daniel Hagari, said soldiers were being mobilized, and strikes on Gaza have begun. “The IDF [Israeli army] is flooding the area with troops. We are focusing on the fighting on the Gaza border.” He continued, “We have begun a widespread call-up in all parts of the IDF. The air force is also striking in Gaza.”
Tel Aviv reports targeting 21 locations in Gaza, and Palestinian officials say there are dozens of casualties. Israel’s minister of national security, Itamar Ben Gvir, declared a state of emergency. The White House National Security Council spokesperson said Washington “unequivocally condemns” the Hamas attack.
The violence has spread to other regions of Israel. In East Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers fired teargas at Palestinian protesters. An Israeli police station was set on fire in Jerusalem. In the West Bank, occupying forces shot a Palestinian man.