Jerusalem: A massive cross-border attack by Hamas militants on Israel has left at least 100 civilians dead and more than 900 wounded, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The attack, which took place on Saturday morning, was one of the deadliest and most brazen in the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
The attack involved a barrage of more than 5,000 rockets fired from Gaza into southern and central Israel in 20 minutes, causing panic and chaos among the Israeli population. The rockets were followed by a ground invasion of more than 1,000 Hamas fighters who breached the Gaza–Israel border fence and entered Israeli territory, armed with guns, grenades, and knives.
The Hamas militants attacked military posts along the border, killing and capturing Israeli soldiers, and then proceeded to target sleeping civilians in nearby towns and villages. They indiscriminately shot at men, women, and children, took some as hostages, and sexually assaulted others. Many of the victims were brutally mutilated or beheaded by the attackers.
According to Daniel Seaman, an IDSF (Israel Defense and Security Forum) advisor and former Israeli government official in the PM’s office, more than several thousand people are in hospital and at least 2000 injured people are in hospitals in the south of Israel. He said that the attack was a “nightmare scenario” that Israel had feared for a long time.
In response to the Hamas attack, Israel launched a massive aerial and ground assault on Gaza, targeting Hamas leaders, operatives, weapons, and infrastructure. The Israeli military said that it had killed 198 Palestinians and injured 1610 in Gaza since the start of the operation. It also said that it had destroyed several tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and fighters into Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the operation until Hamas was “completely eliminated” and said that Israel would not tolerate any threat to its security and sovereignty. He also blamed Iran for supplying Hamas with weapons and funding and called on the international community to condemn the “barbaric” attack by Hamas.
Hamas commander Mohammed Deif announced the beginning of Operation Al-Aqsa Storm in a recorded message broadcast on Hamas TV. He said that the attack was in retaliation for Israel’s desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which is the third holiest site in Islam. He also said that the attack was revenge for the killing of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The Al-Aqsa mosque complex is located on a hilltop known as the Temple Mount to Jews, who consider it their holiest site. The site has been a flashpoint of violence between Israelis and Palestinians for decades, as both sides claim religious and historical rights to it. Last year, Israel’s far-right government accelerated the construction of settlements in the West Bank, displacing hundreds of Palestinians and sparking protests and clashes around the holy site.
The Hamas attack has triggered a new wave of violence in the region, which has already seen four wars between Israel and Hamas since 2008. The United Nations Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire and expressed concern over the escalating situation. US President Joe Biden has also urged both sides to de-escalate and restore calm while reaffirming his support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The attack has also sparked outrage and condemnation from many countries around the world, who have denounced Hamas as a terrorist organization and called for an end to its aggression against Israel. However, some countries have also expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause and criticized Israel for its disproportionate use of force against Gaza.
The attack has also raised questions about the role of Egypt, which has been mediating between Israel and Hamas for years. Egypt shares a border with Gaza and has been trying to broker a long-term truce between the two sides. However, Egypt has also been accused of aiding Hamas by allowing it to smuggle weapons and fighters through tunnels under its border.
The attack has also exposed the divisions within the Palestinian leadership, which is split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Fatah is led by Mahmoud Abbas, who is the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and claims to represent all Palestinians. However, Abbas has been sidelined by Hamas, which does not recognize his authority or his peace talks with Israel.
The attack has also highlighted the challenges faced by Israel in dealing with Hamas, which is considered a formidable enemy by many Israelis. Hamas has shown its ability to launch surprise attacks on Israel using rockets, tunnels, drones, and suicide bombers. It has also shown its resilience to withstand Israeli attacks on Gaza, which have failed to deter or destroy it.
The attack has also raised fears of a wider regional conflict involving Iran, which is seen as a major sponsor of Hamas and other militant groups in the region. Iran has been accused of providing Hamas with advanced rockets and drones, as well as financial and political support. Iran has also been pursuing its nuclear program, which Israel views as an existential threat.
The attack has also shaken the hopes of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been one of the longest and most intractable in the world. The attack has shown that despite decades of negotiations, violence, and suffering, the two sides remain far apart on the core issues of the conflict, such as borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem. The attack has also shown that despite the recent normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab countries, such as the UAE and Bahrain, the conflict remains a source of instability and tension in the region.