In a sudden and alarming turn of events, Israel and the Gaza Strip have erupted into a devastating conflict as Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, launched a massive surprise attack. This attack has unleashed gun battles and a barrage of thousands of rockets from Gaza, targeting both military personnel and civilians. The situation has rapidly escalated, leaving a trail of destruction and casualties on both sides.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the nation to be in a state of war as the Israeli military responded by striking multiple targets within the besieged Gaza Strip. Tragically, several residential tower blocks were reduced to rubble as the violence escalated. The toll on human lives is profound, with approximately 80 people reported killed in Israel and a staggering 232 casualties in Gaza, making this one of the deadliest escalations of conflict in years, with hundreds more wounded.
The conflict has garnered international attention and concern, prompting an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. U.S. President Joe Biden expressed unwavering support for Israel, cautioning against any hostile actions from parties opposed to Israel in this dire situation.
As night fell, the Israeli army continued to engage in live gun battles across 22 locations in Israel, marking a robust ground invasion in an operation labeled “Swords of Iron.” Additionally, Hamas released images of several Israelis taken captive, confirming the presence of kidnapped soldiers and civilians. This situation has escalated to what the Israeli army describes as a “severe hostage situation” in the Negev desert communities of Beeri and Ofakim.
The multi-pronged attack by Hamas began in the early morning, with thousands of rockets launched, some reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some of these rockets evaded the Iron Dome defense system, causing damage to buildings. Hamas fighters used a combination of ground vehicles, motorized paragliders, and boats to breach Gaza’s security barrier and attack Israeli towns and military posts, resulting in gunfire directed at residents and passersby.
The aftermath in Israeli towns near Gaza has been devastating, with bodies seen on the streets and inside cars, testimony to the severity of the violence. The Israeli army Major General Ghasan Alyan has warned that Hamas has unleashed unprecedented violence, describing it as “opening the gates of hell.”
As the conflict intensifies, there have been reports of airstrikes on residential towers, including one that housed the Indonesian hospital, resulting in multiple casualties. Israel’s state-run electricity company has cut power to Gaza, and the night sky is illuminated by army flares.
This escalation follows months of rising violence in the West Bank and increased tensions around Gaza’s border, as well as at contested holy sites in Jerusalem. Prior to this outbreak of violence, casualties had already mounted, with at least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis, and two foreigners losing their lives this year, encompassing both combatants and civilians.
Hamas has dubbed this attack “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” and has called on resistance fighters not only in the West Bank but also in Arab and Islamic nations to join the battle. The group claims to have fired over 5,000 rockets, while Israel reported over 3,000 incoming rockets.
The conflict has triggered air raid sirens across southern and central Israel, including Jerusalem, where incoming rockets were intercepted by air defense systems. The impact on daily life is profound, with disrupted transportation and closed schools in Israel.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, leading to Israel’s blockade of the territory, which has severely impacted its 2.3 million inhabitants. The two sides have engaged in several wars, with the most recent major military exchange occurring in May, resulting in significant casualties on both sides.
The conflict has also spilled over into the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem, where clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces and settlers have led to fatalities and numerous injuries.
While Western capitals have condemned the attacks by Hamas, Iran’s supreme leader expressed pride, and Hezbollah praised the operation. The UN Middle East peace envoy has called for all parties involved to step back from the brink, emphasizing the perilous precipice upon which the region stands.