After breaking out of the Gaza Strip’s blockade and launching an unprecedented surprise attack on Israeli communities the day before, Israeli soldiers fought to repel Hamas fighters as Gaza’s Prime Minister declared that his country was at war.
Hamas fighters invaded up to 22 areas beyond the Gaza Strip in a startlingly broad attack, encompassing villages and other populations up to 24 kilometres and firing thousands of missiles into Israeli cities.
The number of Israeli fatalities since the conflict started early on Saturday has not been officially confirmed. Without distinguishing between militants and civilians, Palestinian officials claim that more than 300 people have died in Gaza.
The Israeli military spokesperson told journalists that Israel was defending itself against Hamas invasions. Although two hostage situations had been “resolved,” an Israeli military official did not specify if all of the hostages had been freed alive. Israel’s military claims it attacked 426 targets in Gaza, destroying homes in enormous explosions. This comprised a 14-story structure in Gaza City’s centre that housed both Hamas offices and numerous flats. Just before, Israeli soldiers fired a warning shot.
Israel’s threats of reprisal and worries about Hezbollah strikes on Israel’s northern border, a militant organisation associated with Hamas in Lebanon, raised the possibility that the confrontation would worsen.
On Sunday, Hezbollah, an organisation in Lebanon, launched dozens of rockets and shells towards three Israeli positions in a contested region along the border with Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In a statement, Hezbollah claimed that the strike, which involved “many rockets and shells,” was carried out in support of the “Palestinian resistance.” It claimed that direct hits were made to Israeli positions.
The Hamas incursion on Simchat Torah, a normally joyous day when Jews complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll, revived painful memories of the 1973 Mideast war practically 50 years to the day, in which Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, aiming to take back Israeli-occupied territories.
Comparisons to one of the most traumatic moments in Israeli history sharpened criticism of Netanyahu and his far-right allies, who had campaigned for more aggressive action against threats from Gaza. Political commentators lambasted the government and military over their failure to anticipate what appeared to be a Hamas attack, unseen in their level of planning and coordination.