In an unexpected and significant confrontation, Gaza militants entered several Israeli towns and military camps on a Saturday morning, launching more than 2,000 rockets from Gaza toward central and southern Israel. The Israeli military reported multiple casualties on their side and announced a heightened state of alert. They have also initiated the call-up of reservist soldiers and have declared their intention to carry out strikes in response to these events.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking in front of Israel’s military headquarters, stated, “We are facing a serious situation.”
Hamas militant commander Mohammed Deif issued a statement calling for a regional resolution in response to what he perceived as Israeli actions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This reference pertains to Jewish religious ultranationalists who visited the holy site, also revered in Judaism as the Temple Mount, during a Jewish holiday earlier in the week.
Commencing at 6:30 a.m. local time, Palestinian militants in Gaza initiated an offensive against Israel, utilizing various means such as paragliders, the Mediterranean Sea, and overland routes, as reported by Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht during a press briefing.
Protracted clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants continued for hours in at least five southern Israeli communities near Gaza, including the town of Sderot and kibbutz communities like Nahal Oz, Beeri, Magen, and Kfar Aza. Additionally, two Israeli military camps in the vicinity were impacted.
The head of a southern Israeli regional council was fatally shot by Palestinian militants in Kfar Aza, while one woman was reportedly killed by rocket fire in southern Israel. There are unconfirmed reports of Israelis possibly being taken hostage within Gaza.
Reports in Israeli media indicated that Israeli militants drove into Israel on trucks and engaged in confrontations with civilians in Israeli communities. Eyewitnesses revealed that Palestinian militants ventured near Israeli homes and even fired at an outdoor nature festival, causing panic among Israelis who sought refuge in fields and bushes. Israeli police issued orders for residents of southern Israel to remain indoors.
In response to the escalating situation, organizers of weekly protests against the Israeli government’s efforts to curtail the powers of Israel’s judiciary announced the cancellation of Saturday night’s demonstration. A group of reservist soldiers, known for leading a movement of reservists refusing military training, called on their peers to serve if summoned.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem acknowledged the casualties resulting from the incidents and confirmed that embassy staff were taking shelter. In a statement, the embassy strongly condemned the actions of Hamas militants and the loss of life, urging all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory actions.
These events unfolded on the Jewish Sabbath and the Simchat Torah holiday, occurring just a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the pivotal 1973 Yom Kippur War when Israel faced a surprise attack by Arab countries.
In recent weeks, Egyptian mediators have reportedly been working to facilitate an agreement aimed at preventing Gaza-Israel violence, stabilizing Hamas’ government employees financially, and increasing the number of Palestinian laborers permitted to work in Israel. The latest surge in violence could potentially impact efforts to secure a U.S.-brokered diplomatic agreement for formal relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
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