Netanyahu says Israel is at war after dozens killed in Hamas attacks.


Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel “at war” after Hamas launched its biggest offensive inside the country in decades, sending militants across the border from Gaza, killing dozens of Israelis and taking others hostage.

At least 100 people were killed and more than 1,100 injured in Israel on Saturday when Hamas gunmen targeted civilians and military posts in southern Israel in an unusual multi-pronged attack. Israel’s military also confirmed that Palestinian militants had taken hostages, but did not say how many, adding that they were fighting in 22 locations.

A Hamas spokesman said the group “held dozens of hostages.” [Israeli] Officers and soldiers have been protected. . . In the Tunnels of Resistance”.

Officials in Gaza say that 198 people have been killed and 1,610 injured in Israel’s retaliatory operations in the area.

As fighting continued inside Israel, its prime minister said he had ordered a “massive mobilization of reserves” and would “respond with fire of an intensity unknown to the enemy”.

Israeli jets hit targets in Gaza, which has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt since the 2007 takeover by Hamas.

Speaking later on Saturday, Netanyahu warned Hamas that it was responsible for the hostages’ welfare and vowed that Israel would pay a heavy price if “even a hair” was harmed. .

He said Israel would “take revenge for this dark day”.

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Israeli police in Tel Aviv assess the damage caused by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. © AP

The attack, during which dozens of Hamas militants flew into Israel on paragliders, by land and sea, and fired thousands of rockets at Israel, drew support from other militant groups in the region.

Analysts say the complexity of the attack is unlike anything Israel has seen in decades.

Since 1948 there has been no such military invasion inside Israeli territory, all other wars being on distant fronts. At the moment it is inside Israel,” said Michael Milshtein, a former IDF military intelligence officer. “It’s an assault, I don’t have any other term to describe it.”

The surprise attack, which was launched on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah and appeared to catch the military off guard, is a serious challenge to Netanyahu’s far-right government, which has held key positions in the past year. She came to power with hardline people. .

Footage broadcast by Israel’s Channel 12 shows a bulldozer breaking through the border fence between Israel and Gaza. Videos released by Hamas, which could not be immediately verified, showed drones dropping mortar shells on a group of soldiers near an Israeli tank, a guard tower and a vehicle.

Other footage shows Hamas gunmen dragging a soldier alive from a burning tank, and a handful of arrestees who Hamas claims are IDF soldiers. Islamic Jihad, a small militant group in Gaza, also claimed to have captured the Israelis.

“Israel’s defense strategy in the face of the Gaza threat . . . built up over many years, has fundamentally failed. “This is a very significant failure of the entire system.”

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Israelis line up to donate blood in Tel Aviv after a Hamas attack. © Amir Levy/Getty Images

The head of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, said the Palestinian group had fired more than 5,000 rockets at Israel and called for support from the Palestinians and other Arab states.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon said the attack was a “message” to countries like Saudi Arabia that are trying to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel. He said he was in direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance.

Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who advises Iran’s supreme leader on military affairs, said Tehran was “backwards”. [Hamas’s] operation” and that “we believe the resistance movement also supports it” – a reference to other militant groups in the Middle East.

Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht said the military was monitoring the situation on Israel’s northern border, where Hezbollah, which has much larger and more sophisticated weapons than Hamas, has a presence, and that the area around Gaza was under attack. I have multiple firefights going on. .

“We are fighting in some places around the Gaza Strip, in the Erez crossing, in Nihal Oz. . . . also in the Reim camp, which is [Israel’s Gaza] Division headquarters,” he said.

Rocket fire from Gaza set off warning sirens in southern and central Israel, sending civilians into air raid shelters as missiles hit cities including Tel Aviv and Beersheva.

Missile attacks destroyed buildings in the southern city of Ashkelon, and missiles from Gaza to the north of Jerusalem rang out in the rarely-hit city.

The Israeli army has closed roads around Gaza and said it is flooding the south of the country with reinforcements to regain control of the situation.

The fighting comes after 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian tensions with violence escalating in both Gaza and the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as the heart of a future state but which Israel has occupied since 1967.

According to the latest UN figures, which do not include Saturday’s clashes, Israeli forces have killed 212 Palestinians this year, while Palestinians have killed 30 Israelis.

Hamas militants are entering Gaza in what is said to be a captured Israeli military vehicle.

US President Joe Biden said he had spoken to Netanyahu and condemned the “horrific attack” by Hamas.

“We are ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel,” he said.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “In the coming days, the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect its citizens from indiscriminate violence and terrorism. “

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who favors normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, said he believed the Hamas attack was aimed at derailing efforts to reach a US-brokered peace deal between the two countries. .

“I believe that this unprecedented and brutal attack by Hamas is not only supported by Iran, but was designed to thwart peace efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel. A peace agreement between these two countries would be a nightmare for Iran and Hamas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for “restraint” and urged all involved to “refrain from drastic measures that increase tensions”.

Additional reporting by Najma Bozargamhar in Tehran, Samar al-Atrash in Dubai, Adam Samson in Ankara and Felicia Schwartz in Washington.

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