Hamas Attack: The Facts and Israel’s Reaction

On Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu declared the end of the “first phase” of Israel’s response, asserting that Israeli forces had successfully repelled most Hamas militants within its territory. Despite rumors hinting at a potential extensive ground invasion of Gaza, he vowed to persist with the offensive “without reservation and without respite.

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In a daring move, Hamas, the Palestinian group overseeing the Gaza Strip, initiated a sweeping invasion into Israeli territory—the most extensive in half a century. In response, Israel countered with a barrage of airstrikes. On Saturday morning, Hamas unleashed a torrent of thousands of rockets, reaching as far as Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem, typically shielded by Israel’s advanced Iron Dome defense system.

Within an hour of the initial rocket barrage, Hamas militants penetrated Israel through land, sea, and air, sparking some of the first intense clashes between Israeli and Arab forces on Israeli ground in decades. The militants infiltrated 22 Israeli towns and military bases, taking civilians and soldiers hostage, leading to their relocation to Gaza. By Sunday, officials reported at least 700 Israelis dead—a grim toll of the unfolding conflict.

What sets this attack apart from the rest?

This relentless conflict between Israel and Palestinians has spanned two centuries, with episodes of violence leaving thousands dead. Notably, the May 2021 clash, sparked by the Israeli police raid on Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, escalated into an 11-day war with Hamas.

The triggers for bloodshed have varied—from Israel targeting militant leaders to responding to protests or attacks from Hamas. However, this time, there’s an absence of an obvious flashpoint, catching Israel’s intelligence and government off guard.

The timing of this assault is noteworthy, striking Israel at a challenging juncture. Amid deep concerns about societal cohesion and military readiness, exacerbated by the far-right government’s judiciary power-reduction efforts, the attacks coincide with the holiday of Simchat Torah. Almost 50 years to the day since the surprise start of the Yom Kippur War, it adds a historical layer to the unexpected nature of this conflict.

What’s Israel’s reaction been?

In a televised address on Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu declared, “We are at war, and we will win it,” as he announced the mobilization of Israeli military reservists. Tanks rolled into the south, sparking speculation of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Simultaneously, the northern border saw reinforcement, while on Sunday, soldiers continued efforts to reclaim communities infiltrated in the south.

Israeli jets conducted airstrikes on Gaza, targeting centers housing Hamas militants. While Israel claimed to have destroyed these sites, Palestinian officials reported hits on a hospital, multistory buildings, homes, and a mosque. The Gaza Health Ministry stated that, as of Sunday, at least 413 Palestinians had lost their lives—most within Israel, with the rest in the enclave.

Gaza, under an enduring Israeli blockade since Hamas’s 2007 takeover, faces severe restrictions on imports, including electronics, and limits on people leaving the territory.

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