Israel declares ‘war’ after surprise attack left at least 200 dead and nearly 1,500 injured

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – Recently, a significant escalation took place amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the nation to be “at war” on Saturday. The Israeli military reported that around 2,200 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, with armed groups also infiltrating Israeli territory by land, sea, and even air, using paragliders.

Explosions echoed across Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and southern Israel, with some likely resulting from the interception of incoming rockets. These aerial attacks drove Israelis to seek safety in underground shelters. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported that Hamas had taken hostages and prisoners of war, but did not disclose any numbers. According to Israel’s emergency rescue service and health ministry, the conflict has resulted in at least 200 Israeli deaths and 1,452 injuries.

In retaliation, Israel launched strikes on what it identified as Hamas targets in Gaza. One of the targets, the Palestine Tower, a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed residential apartments and media offices, was hit by an explosion and subsequently collapsed. The Palestinian health ministry reported 232 Palestinian deaths and 1,697 injuries, but did not provide details on the locations of these casualties or whether they included Hamas militants or civilians in Gaza.

Netanyahu stated that operations were underway to “clear communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists” and that he had initiated a call-up of reservists. He later pledged retaliation against Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, in a televised speech. The scale and scope of Saturday’s assault were unprecedented in recent history, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the 1973 War when Arab states launched an attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

IDF spokesman Lt Col Richard Hecht confirmed that Israeli forces were currently engaged in ground combat in multiple locations, including several villages, army bases, and border crossings. Hecht did not comment on whether the IDF had missed intelligence regarding the impending attack.

Hamas military commander Muhammad Al-Deif, referring to the operation as “Al-Aqsa Storm,” stated that the group had targeted enemy positions, airports, and military positions with 5,000 rockets. He claimed the assault was a response to attacks on women, the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the ongoing siege of Gaza.

The recent attacks by Hamas follow one of the deadliest periods in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in nearly two decades. The violence has been driven by frequent Israeli military raids in Palestinian towns and cities, which Israel has said are a necessary response to a rising number of attacks by Palestinian militants on Israelis.