Israel on Saturday morning came under a coordinated multifront attack from the Gaza Strip by both Hamas rocket fire and the infiltration of assailant squads who managed to cross the border fence.
Nearly 3,000 rockets have been fired at the south of Israel from the Strip since 6:30 am local time, according to the spokesperson's office of the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF said that Palestinian assailants infiltrated Israeli territories "via sea, air and ground." The Israeli military said that fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants is ongoing in seven villages and kibbutzim in the south of Israel.
Israel’s national rescue service said the barrage of rockets and gunfire by Palestinian assailants killed at least 300 Israelis. More than 2,000 people were injured on both sides. The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has risen to 232, the Palestinian Authority's WAFA news agency reported. The developments and Israel's declaration of war mark the most serious escalation between Israel and Hamas since May 2021.
Rina Bassist, Ezgi Akin, Beatrice Farhat, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Adam Lucente, Jack Dutton, Jared Szuba and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel contributed to this blog.
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Live updates (all times EDT):
Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023
11:40 pm: Israeli army starts evacuating Gaza envelope residents
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari says the army has started to evacuate the residents in the Gaza area from their homes while soldiers continue to search for assailants in seven locations. The Home Front command ordered schools not to open on Sunday across Israel. In the south, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank regions, gatherings have been limited to 10 people outdoors and 50 people indoors.
9:00 pm: Israeli airstrikes pound Gaza
The Palestinian Authority’s official news outlet WAFA reported early Sunday morning local time there were Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, including in the Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City. The IDF’s Arabic language spokesman Avichay Adraee tweeted early Sunday, calling on residents of several neighborhoods in Gaza to evacuate to other parts of the territory due to impending Israeli military operations.
Loud explosions could be heard on Al Jazeera Arabic’s broadcast from Gaza at around 3:30 a.m. local time.
8:50 pm: Hamas threatens to hit Jerusalem
Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech on Saturday night local time that the operation will extend from Gaza to Jerusalem, the West Bank and within Israel, according to a post on the group’s website. Israeli media reported that rockets were fired into southern Israel early Sunday morning local time. The Israeli military has not commented on how many Israelis have been captured. Israeli news outlets estimated that dozens were taken.
7:38 pm: Special dispatch from Tel Aviv
Prior to the surprise attack from Gaza, the IDF had deployed massive numbers of troops to the West Bank in response to Palestinian attacks against Israelis. The endless violence in the West Bank, partially incited by Jewish settlers, had consumed much of the military’s investment before Saturday.
“Gaza was left at the mercy of the formidable barrier that was built, surveillance cameras and other sophisticated technology. It was clearly not enough,” writes Ben Caspit.
For more on the Israeli intelligence failure, read Caspit’s full article here.
6:15 pm: Special dispatch from Gaza
Even as the death toll in Gaza surpassed 230 people and airstrikes pounded the Hamas-ruled enclave, Al-Monitor's correspondent on the ground reports there were celebrations in solidarity with the militant organization as it launched its largest offensive yet against Israel. Read the full article here.
6:10 pm: Dozens of Israeli hostages freed
Dozens of Israelis held hostage in Kibbutz Beeri in the south of Israel were freed, Israel’s public broadcaster KAN reports. The release came after hours of fierce fighting between the Hamas assailants holding the group and IDF troops. The Israelis had been held hostage since Saturday morning in the community dining room of the kibbutz.
5:10 pm: IDF thwarts further Hamas attempts to enter Israel, 300 dead
The number of Israelis killed by Gaza rockets and Hamas militants reached 300, reports Israel’s public broadcaster KAN. At least 1,590 Israelis were evacuated to hospitals, more than 300 of them in serious condition, according to the Israeli Health Ministry.
The IDF thwarted an attempt by Hamas operatives to enter Israel via the sea through the Israel Zikim beach and another attempt to cross the Gaza-Israel security fence.
3:30 pm: Hunt for Hamas assailant in Sderot
Israeli armored bulldozers began destroying the police station of the southern town of Sderot where at least one Hamas assailant is hiding. Other vehicles and machines are being used to detect and dismantle any possible explosives in the area.
The battle against the armed assailant has been ongoing for several hours with several exchanges of fire. The commander of the Southern Command ordered that the assailant be "neutralized" at any cost, even if it means destroying the building. Residents of Sderot were ordered to enter the shelters early in the morning and were not permitted to leave. Authorities fear that more assailants are hiding in the town.
3:20 pm: Netanyahu says war will be 'long and difficult'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the war against Hamas is expected to be protracted but pledged that Israel will prevail. "The war will be long. It will be difficult. Challenging days are ahead of us. But we will win it,” Netanyahu said.
In a short statement to the press, the Israeli premier warned, "The IDF will immediately use all of its power to destroy [Hamas] and to take revenge with force for the day they have inflicted on Israel and on its citizens.”
“We will turn the city of evil into a city of ruins. I say to the residents of Gaza: Get out of there now," Netanyahu added.
The Israeli premier thanked President Joe Biden for his "clear and unequivocal support." He also thanked the leaders of France and the United Kingdom as well as other world leaders for standing by Israel.
2:55 pm: President Biden voices solidarity with Israel
Biden condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel in a short address from the White House and issued a warning to Israel’s enemies. “This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching,” said Biden.
Biden added that he will “personally” remain in contact with Netanyahu on the developments and that he has spoken to Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The president said he instructed his staff to remain in contact with the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates as well as European countries and the Palestinian Authority.
2:20 pm: Netanyahu proposes national unity 'emergency government'
Netanyahu asked Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and National Unity party leader Benny Gantz to join a "special large emergency government, the same way late opposition leader Menachem Begin joined Levi Eshkol’s government on the eve of the Six-Day War," read a statement issued by Netanyahu’s Likud party. Lapid first suggested the proposal earlier in the day after meeting with Netanyahu for a security meeting as chair of the opposition.
2:11 pm: Israel's death toll rises to 200
At least 200 people in Israel have been killed in the war with Hamas, the Associated Press reported, citing Israeli health officials.
1:40 pm: Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah delegations meet in south Lebanon
The head of political relations for the Islamic Jihad movement in Lebanon, Shakib al-Ayna, hosted a Hezbollah delegation in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon to discuss the latest Hamas-Israel escalation. According to a Hezbollah statement, the delegation gave its blessing to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and called on the people of the region to stand by the Palestinian people and reject the normalization policies of their countries.
1:13 pm: Hamas says it fired 150 rockets toward Tel Aviv
Hamas’ military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said it fired 150 rockets toward Tel Aviv in response to the strike on the Palestine Tower in Gaza City. Israeli media reported loud explosions heard in Tel Aviv and surrounding areas.
1:13 pm: US Central Command tracks situation
CENTCOM, the US military’s Middle East headquarters, released a statement saying it was “closely tracking the situation surrounding the appalling terrorist attack by Hamas against the people of Israel.”
“We stand with Israel and extend our condolences for the lives lost in these attacks. US CENTCOM remains in communication with our counterparts," the statement read.
1:07 pm: Israel cuts off Gaza's electricity
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz signed an order instructing the state electricity company to stop supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip. Gaza regularly experiences power outages, in part due to Israel bombing the territory's power plant in 2006. The Hamas-controlled enclave depends on Israel's power grid for some of its electricity.
1:00 pm: Movement reported in southern Lebanon near Israel border
The Lebanese army closed the military road near the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel amid an Israeli military deployment on the Israeli side of the border. Meanwhile, an Israeli military patrol fired at a motorcycle convoy driving near the border, according to Lebanon’s official National News Agency. Videos circulated online showing men on motorcycles in southern Lebanon driving near the border and raising the Hezbollah flag.
12:44 pm: Congressional leaders declare support for Israel
Top lawmakers in the US Senate and the House foreign affairs committees expressed support for Israel in response to the escalation.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned what he described as a “brazen and ongoing terrorist attack.” Cardin also said the United States would stand by Israel, referencing the 1973 war in which Washington airlifted supplies to the country.
“Just as the United States stood by Israel after it was attacked exactly 50 years ago on Yom Kippur, today we stand by Israel in this time of crisis,” said Cardin.
Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the committee, said Israel has the “unequivocal support” of the United States in responding to Hamas’ attacks. Risch, a frequent critic of the Biden administration’s Iran policy, added that the attacks “also underscore the dangers of a continued weak-kneed US approach to Iran.”
Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the "Iran-backed Hamas terrorists’ unprecedented assault on Israel.” Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the committee, denounced what he described as "the terrorist organization Hamas’ unprovoked attacks," according to his statement on social media.
12:11 pm: Death toll rises to 100 in Israel, nearly 200 in Gaza
At least 100 Israelis died in the surprise attack from Gaza, Israel's national rescue service Magen David Adom reported. Health officials in Gaza said that at least 198 people were killed in Israel's retaliatory strikes.
11:35 am: UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting
The UN Security Council will reportedly discuss the latest violent escalations in Israel and Gaza in a closed-door emergency meeting on Sunday. Brazil, which holds the UN Security Council presidency, called for an urgent session and urged all parties to exercise “maximum restraint.”
Earlier Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks by Hamas “in the strongest terms.”
“The secretary-general is deeply concerned for the civilian population and urges maximum restraint,” a statement from Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric read. “Civilians must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law at all times.”
11:35 am: Israel flattens high-rise in Gaza City
The Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Interior said Israeli missiles destroyed the residential Palestine Tower in the east of Gaza City. The 14-story building housed residential apartments, media outlets and, according to some reports, offices used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel gave a 10-minute warning for its residents to evacuate the building before bombarding it. No injuries were reported.
11:06 am: Biden offers Israel ‘all appropriate’ US assistance
Following his phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Joe Biden said his country was standing “ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel.”
“The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation,” Biden said. “My administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. … I will remain in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
10:27 am: Israel acknowledges hostages taken by Hamas
Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari told Israel's public broadcaster KAN that Hamas has taken hostages.
The confirmation came hours after the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian media outlet Safa reported that the group's armed wing captured an unspecified number of soldiers.
Hagari said there are hostage situations in Be’eri, which borders Gaza, and Ofakim, which is located between the enclave and the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva.
10:04 am: Biden speaks with Netanyahu
Biden spoke with Netanyahu and stressed that the United States fully supports Israel’s right to self-defense, Netanyahu’s office said. Netanyahu told Biden that Israel will conduct an intense military campaign and will win.
10:00 am: At least 238 killed, over 2,000 wounded
Official figures released by Palestinian and Israeli authorities brought the total death toll from both sides to at least 238. The number of injured in both Israel and Gaza exceeded 2,000.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 198 people were killed and more than 1,610 were wounded in Gaza as Israel carried out strikes against Hamas positions inside the coastal enclave.
Israel’s national rescue service, meanwhile, said rocket attacks and Palestinian gunfire killed at least 40 Israelis and wounded more than 500. As sirens sounded Saturday evening in southern Israel warning of more rockets, the Israeli Health Ministry said that so far more than 900 people had been taken to hospitals.
8:28 am: Israel's Herzog points finger at Iran
Israeli President Isaac Herzog drew a link between Hamas’ attack and Iran's support for the group.
"Supported and directed by their proxy commanders in Iran, they carried out an unprovoked, heinous attack against the Jewish state on a Jewish holy day," said Herzog, referencing the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret. "Now is the time to hear clear, unequivocal condemnation of Hamas, its allies and its backers in Iran."
Iran is a major backer of Hamas and has provided the Palestinian group with funds and weapons. In August, Netanyahu blamed Tehran for recent attacks by armed Palestinians in the West Bank.
8:27 am: Iraq expresses support for Palestinians
Iraqi government spokesperson Bassem al-Awadi said in a statement that Iraq stands by the Palestinian people, calling the militants' operations a "natural result of systematic repression." Awadi also called for the Arab League to urgently convene on the issue.
8:25 am: Pentagon chief reiterates US support for Israel
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement that over the coming days the Pentagon will "work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism." He added that the US commitment to Israel's right to defend itself is "unwavering."
In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration "unequivocally condemns the appalling attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israel."
8:24 am: UAE calls for cease-fire
The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates issued a statement expressing "great concern" over the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians and called for an "immediate cease-fire to avoid serious repercussions."
The UAE established full relations with Israel in 2020 and now has significant economic ties with Tel Aviv, though Abu Dhabi has condemned several of Israel's actions toward the Palestinians this year.
8:15 am: Qatar holds Israel responsible for Gaza fighting
Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it holds Israel "solely responsible" for the current conflict due to its "ongoing violations" of Palestinian rights.
The ministry also called on the parties to "de-escalate and exercise maximum restraint."
Qatar does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but has previously mediated between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian groups. In August of last year, Qatar helped broker the cease-fire that ended fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad. Qatar also provides regular financial assistance to Gaza.
7:52 am: Jordan calls for de-escalation
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry called for an urgent end to the Hamas-Israel escalation, warning of the repercussions it could have on the efforts to achieve a comprehensive cease-fire.
7:43 am: Israel launches Operation Swords of Iron
Speaking at an emergency cabinet meeting, Netanyahu outlined three goals for the military campaign, dubbed "Operation Swords of Iron."
“Our first goal is first of all to cleanse the area of the enemy forces that have infiltrated, and restore security and peace to the settlements that were attacked. The second goal, at the same time, is to exact a huge price from the enemy, also in the Gaza Strip. The third goal is to fortify other arenas so that no one makes the mistake of joining this war,” said the Israeli premier.
7:43 am: As US condemns attacks, NSA Sullivan speaks to Hanegbi
Early Saturday, the White House condemned the attacks and said national security adviser Jake Sullivan had spoken with his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi.
"The United States unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
The top US diplomat in Israel, Stephanie Hallett, said she was "sickened by the images coming out of southern Israel," adding in a tweet on the X platform that "The United States stands with Israel."
6:33 am: Saudi Arabia calls for halt to fighting
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying it is following the "unprecedented" situation between Israeli forces and Palestinian factions and called on both sides to stop fighting. "The kingdom calls for the immediate stop of the escalation between the two sides, protection of civilians and restraint," the statement read.
The Biden administration has been pushing for Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel and discussions between the three countries are ongoing. An Israeli delegation visited Saudi Arabia earlier this week.
6:15 am: Turkey’s Erdogan cautious, calls for restraint
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged restraint, striking a cautious tone amid his country’s improving ties with Israel. Speaking at his ruling party’s convention in Ankara, Erdogan called on the parties to “stay away from impulsive steps that will further escalate tensions.”
The toned-down rhetoric from Erdogan, who has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, comes as Turkey seeks to bolster its ties with Israel. After more than a decade of deep freeze in the two countries’ bilateral ties, Erdogan and Netanyahu met for the first time officially in New York last month.
6:03 a.m: Iran voices support for Hamas attack
A senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the Hamas escalation as a “proud operation.”
“We support the proud operation of Al-Aqsa Flood,” Yahya Rahim Safavi was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry also echoed Safavi’s statements, with spokesperson Nasser Kanaani saying the attacks “marked a new page in the field of resistance and armed operations against the occupiers.”
“This is a bright spot in the history of the Palestinian people’s struggle against the Zionists,” ISNA quoted Kanaani as saying.
6:00 am: Israeli cabinet holds emergency meeting
The Israeli cabinet convened an emergency meeting after Netanyahu declared that the country was at war.
"Citizens of Israel, we are at war — not in an operation or in rounds, but at war. This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens," Netanyahu said.
5:43 am: At least 3,000 rockets fired, over 22 killed
According to the latest Israeli assessments, more than 3,000 rockets were fired at Israel since Saturday morning and over 22 Israelis were killed.
5:34 am: Hamas claims to have taken Israeli hostages
The Hamas-affiliated Palestinian media outlet Safa reported that the group's armed wing had captured an unspecified number of Israeli soldiers. The soldiers were taken in Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip, according to Safa.
5:08 am: Egypt warns of grave consequences
Egypt warned of the grave consequences of the ongoing escalation in Gaza and Israel, saying it directly threatens peace talks. In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry urged all parties involved to exercise the “utmost restraint” and avoid exposing civilians to further risks. The ministry also called on international actors involved in the peace talks to intervene and de-escalate the situation.
5:00 am: Hezbollah praises Hamas, slams 'normalization'
Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah movement praised what it described as the “heroic” Palestinian operation against Israel. “This victorious operation is a decisive retaliation to the Israelis' crimes and continuous aggression on sanctities and dignity of our people as well as a new proof that the military resistance is the only choice in face of the Israeli occupation,” Hezbollah’s media office said in a statement obtained by the movement’s affiliated Al-Manar TV station.
Hezbollah added that the operation “is a message to the Muslim and Arab nations as well as to the international community, especially those who are rushing to normalize ties with the Zionist entity, that the Palestinian cause is alive till victory and liberation.” It further said that it was closely following the unfolding developments in the Palestinian territories and was in “direct contact with the Palestinian resistance command in Lebanon and abroad.”
4:50 am: Flights to Israel canceled
At least five flights on their way to Israel were instructed to land elsewhere. Airlines started canceling flights scheduled to Israel following the escalation.
3:34 am: Israel at war
Netanyahu declared Israel is at war.
1:30 am: IDF bombs Gaza
The IDF started bombing targets in Gaza. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved a wide-scale call-up of reservists following the surprise attack. The IDF began airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza some two hours after the rocket fire began.
Netanyahu warned Hamas that he ordered "an extensive mobilization" of military reserves and that "we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known."
"The enemy will pay an unprecedented price. In the meantime, I call on the citizens of Israel to strictly adhere to the directives of the IDF and the Home Front Command. We are at war, and we are going to win it," the prime minister added.
Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023
1:15 am: Hamas declares military campaign against Israel
Hamas' military wing announced the start of a military operation against Israel dubbed Al-Aqsa Flood. In an audio recording, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades commander Mohammed Deif said the coordinated attack against Israel aims to end the ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.
“The first stage of Al-Aqsa Flood operation began with the launch of more than 5,000 rockets that struck the enemy’s positions, airports and military fortifications,” Deif added.
Friday, Oct. 6, 2023
11:30 pm on Friday: Hamas launches surprise attack
Militants in Gaza launched a surprise attack against Israel. Heavy rocket fire targeted southern and central Israel, including the Jerusalem area. One woman was killed by a rocket that hit a building in the south. Hamas broke through the security fence and squads entered Israel via ground, sea and air.
Initial reports indicated that the squads used paragliders and also broke through gates used by Israeli forces near the fence. Residents reported and even recorded the alleged attackers moving on foot and in a car in the southern city of Sderot.
The double attack against Israel was claimed by Gaza Strip-based Hamas. Military commander Mohammed Deif issued a statement calling the rocket fire and invasion “the day of the great revolution,” according to Israel's Army Radio, quoting Gaza's Hamas TV. Deif urged Israeli Arabs to take up arms, calling them to join in the attack.
Gallant said Hamas has made a "grave mistake" by attacking Israel.
Airports in central and southern Israel were closed due to the violence, according to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Ben Gurion Airport will remain operational and will act according to security instructions, the report said.
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