In the Israel-Hamas conflict, militants representing Palestine’s Hamas launched a audacious incursion into Israeli territories on Saturday, resulting in the loss of 300 Israeli lives and the abduction of numerous hostages. This unprecedented assault unfolded during a significant Jewish holiday, catching Israel off guard. In response, Israel swiftly retaliated with airstrikes in Gaza, with its Prime Minister unequivocally declaring a state of war against Hamas, vowing to exact an ‘unprecedented price.’ The sequence of Hamas attacks on Israel during this fateful Saturday is as follows:
At approximately 6:30 am (10 am IST), the Palestinian militant faction, Hamas, initiated a massive rocket barrage across southern Israel, triggering alarms that resonated as far as Tel Aviv and Beersheba. Hamas claimed responsibility for launching an astounding 5,000 rockets in their initial onslaught, while Israel’s military reported a count of 2,500 rockets. The skies over residential Israeli communities became obscured by billowing smoke, forcing civilians to seek refuge behind structures as sirens blared. Tragically, at least one woman fell victim to these deadly rockets.
Mohammed Deif, the leader of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, declared the commencement of ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,’ announcing that the first strike, targeting enemy positions, airports, and military fortifications, consisted of more than 5,000 missiles and shells. At 7:40 am (11:10 am IST), the Israeli military confirmed the infiltration of Palestinian gunmen into their territory. This rocket barrage served as a diversion, concealing a multi-pronged incursion by fighters. Most of them crossed through breaches in the land security barriers demarcating Gaza and Israel. Notably, one was captured on film utilizing a powered parachute, while a motorboat was sighted heading toward Zikim, an Israeli coastal town housing a military base. Footage released by Hamas depicted fighters breaching security fences, with the lighting conditions suggesting this occurred during the rocket barrage, as reported by Reuters.
A photograph disseminated by Hamas showcased a bulldozer dismantling a section of the security fence. By 9:45 am (12:15 pm IST), explosions reverberated throughout Gaza, and at 10 am (12:30 pm IST), Israel’s military spokesperson announced the commencement of aerial assaults in Gaza. Israel’s military further disclosed that, by 10 am, Palestinian fighters had breached at least three military installations along the border – the Erez border crossing, the Zikim base, and the Gaza division headquarters at Reim. Ongoing skirmishes were reported at Erez and Zikim. Meanwhile, fighters seized control of the Israeli border town of Sderot and were reportedly present in another border community, Be’eri, as well as the town of Ofakim, situated 30km east of Gaza, as attested by accounts from Israeli residents.
Prompted by the unfolding crisis, Israel’s military ordered residents to seek shelter, broadcasting the message, ‘We will reach you.’
By mid-morning, Israel’s Police Chief, Yaacov Shabtai, reported that security forces were engaged in confrontations with gunmen at 21 separate locations. At 1:30 pm (4 pm IST), the military confirmed that troops were still in the process of reclaiming communities that had been overrun by gunmen. Reports from Israeli news outlets indicated that over 100 Israelis had tragically lost their lives, with 800 others sustaining injuries. Disturbingly, accounts from Israel’s foreign ministry alleged that Hamas gunmen had systematically targeted civilians, conducting house-to-house killings. Additional reports suggested that hostages had been taken in Ofakim. Islamic Jihad also claimed to be holding several Israeli soldiers captive, with footage circulating on Hamas social media accounts seemingly depicting captives being transported into Gaza.
This day marked the deadliest outbreak of violence in Israel in the past five decades, with Hamas claiming the lives of at least 300 Israelis and seizing numerous hostages – an unprecedented tragedy since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago. Israel, in response, launched one of its most devastating retaliatory campaigns, resulting in the loss of more than 230 lives in Gaza. The conflict persisted well into the night.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed a solemn resolve, stating, ‘We shall exact formidable vengeance for this malevolent day.’ He characterized Hamas’s actions as the initiation of a ruthless and wicked war, acknowledging the heavy toll it had exacted. He added, ‘Hamas harbors an intent to annihilate us all. This is an adversary that perpetrates heinous acts against mothers and children within the sanctity of their homes, in their very beds. An adversary that seizes the elderly, children, and teenage girls.’ Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared that the conflict, which had erupted in Gaza, would soon extend to the West Bank and Jerusalem, underscoring the enduring plight of Gazans who have endured a 16-year Israeli blockade.