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Deadly Escalation: Hamas Launches Surprise Attack on Israel

deadly escalation hamas launches surprise attack on israel
deadly escalation hamas launches surprise attack on israel
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Violence between Israel and the Palestinians has surged since early last year. On Saturday, Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a large-scale surprise attack against Israel, firing thousands of rockets from Gaza and sending fighters to kill or abduct people. Israel retaliated with devastating air strikes.

In this bloodiest escalation in years, at least 70 people were reported killed in Israel, while Gaza authorities released a death toll of 198. Hundreds more on both sides were wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We are at war,” as the military launched strikes against targets in Gaza, including several residential tower blocks that were completely destroyed.

Hamas has released images of several Israelis taken captive. Israel army spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed the presence of kidnapped soldiers and civilians, labeling it a war crime committed by Hamas.

Hamas initiated the attack around 6:30 am, firing thousands of rockets aimed as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, some bypassing the Iron Dome defense system and hitting buildings. Hamas fighters breached Gaza’s security barrier and attacked nearby Israeli towns and military posts, opening fire on residents and passersby. Tragic scenes unfolded in towns like Sderot, with pleas for help from Israeli civilians under attack.

Armed Palestinians gathered around a burning Israeli tank, and others drove a seized Israeli Humvee military vehicle back into Gaza.

Israeli army Major General Ghasan Alyan warned that Hamas had “opened the gates of hell.” The army engaged in live gun battles in several locations near the Gaza Strip, in an operation labeled “Swords of Iron.”

The escalation follows months of rising violence, mostly in the occupied West Bank, and tensions around Gaza’s border and contested holy sites in Jerusalem.

Hamas named its attack “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” and called on resistance fighters in various regions to join the battle. Hamas claimed to have fired more than 5,000 rockets, while Israel reported at least 2,200 rockets aimed at its territory.

President Biden was briefed on the situation and emphasized Washington’s support for Israel’s defense. Western capitals condemned the attacks by Hamas, which the European Union, United States, and Israel consider a terrorist group.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland expressed concern, calling for all sides to “pull back from the brink.”

Before Saturday’s violence, at least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis, and two foreigners had been killed this year, including combatants and civilians on both sides, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.