Israel and Gaza plunged into a state of war on Saturday as Palestinian militants initiated a complex and large-scale assault on southern Israel. The early morning attack, characterized by its exceptional complexity and scale, saw militants infiltrating several Israeli towns and launching thousands of rockets toward cities as distant as Jerusalem.
The Israeli military reported that the Palestinian militants crossed into Israel via land, sea, and air, a multi-pronged approach that caught Israel off-guard. By early afternoon, the country's main ambulance service had reported at least 40 Israeli casualties, signaling the severity of the attack. In response, Israel launched massive strikes on Gaza, exacerbating the violence.
Yousef Abu al-Rish, the top Palestinian health official in Gaza, reported dozens of Palestinian casualties and hundreds wounded, with most casualties occurring during firefights inside Israel. Local sources confirmed at least one Palestinian fatality resulting from an Israeli airstrike.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that operations were underway to clear infiltrated towns and issued a call-up of reservists, stating, "We are at war" during a televised address.
The timing of the assault was particularly poignant, striking Israel during one of its most precarious moments in history. Months of deep-seated anxiety regarding the unity of Israeli society and the readiness of its military had preceded the crisis, fueled by government attempts to diminish the judiciary's power. This devastating violence unfolded exactly 50 years after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which similarly caught Israel off-guard and led to significant Israeli losses.
Muhammad Deif, the leader of Hamas's military wing, justified the operation in a recorded message, stating it was meant to convey that "the time of their rampaging without accountability has ended."
Here are some of the latest developments:
The Israeli military reported that by 11 a.m. on Saturday, at least 2,200 rockets had been fired into Israel, and Palestinian gunmen had breached Israel's border fence at multiple locations along the Gaza perimeter.
Palestinian militants infiltrated at least seven Israeli communities and military bases, including Sderot, Kfar Azza, Nahal Oz, Magen, Beeri, Reim, Zikim, and the militarized border checkpoint at Erez, resulting in ongoing conflicts.
Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, claimed the operation aimed to defend the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a contested holy site, and challenge the Israeli blockade.
Israel's Health Ministry reported over 779 wounded Israelis across the country, with some in critical condition. Hospitals, including the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, admitted numerous casualties, and an urgent blood donation appeal was issued.
The White House firmly condemned the "unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians" and pledged unwavering support for Israel's government and people, according to Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.