Israel/Palestine: Netanyahu says Israel is “in a state of war” as Palestinian militants launch sudden air and ground attacks from Gaza


Gaza and Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Saturday that the country was “in a state of war” after Gaza militants fired deadly rockets and sent gunmen into Israeli territory, a major escalation in the long-running conflict between the two sides.

“Citizens of Israel, we are at war – not in one operation, not in rounds of fighting – in a war,” Netanyahu said in a video message.

An early morning rocket attack from Gaza killed at least one person and injured more than 100 people, according to two hospitals, in an attack the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described as “massive”.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack and called for a general uprising against Israel.

“If you have a gun, take it out. Now is the time to use it – go out with trucks, cars, axes, and today the best and most glorious history begins,” said Hamas military commander Mohammed Aldive said in the recording.

He called the operation “Aqsa Storm” and said the group “targeted enemy positions, airports and military positions with 5,000 rockets.” The attack on Israel was a response to attacks on women and desecration of Islamic holy sites. Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing siege in Gaza.

Israeli forces are “fighting on the ground as we speak,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said at a briefing on Saturday, listing at least six locations where fighting is taking place.

These locations include Erez Crossing, Nahal Oz, Magen, Kibbutz Beeri, Rehim Army Base, Ziikim Army Base, Kfar Azza and Kibbutz Beeri.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was responding to the attack by attacking “a number of targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization.”

Hecht also said that the Israel Defense Forces will call up thousands of reservists.

The Israel Defense Forces warned Israelis living near Gaza to stay at home or go to shelters.

In a statement on Saturday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said: “In the past hour, the Hamas terrorist organization began firing large-scale rockets from the Gaza corridor into Israeli territory. The terrorists have infiltrated into several different locations in Israeli territory. Sirens warning of incoming rockets continued for at least three hours after the initial attack.

“The Hamas terrorist organization is the sovereign of the Gaza Strip and is responsible for this attack. It will face the consequences and responsibility for these events,” it added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter) that Israel was facing “a very difficult moment.”

“I wish to provide strength to the commanders and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and to all security forces and rescue services. I send encouragement and strength to all Israeli residents who have come under attack,” he added.

The team in Jerusalem heard rocket warning sirens and booms, likely intercepted incoming rockets, and sirens continued to sound around Israel.

The first round of rockets was fired around 6:30 a.m. local time (11:30 p.m. ET) on Saturday, when most Israelis were probably asleep.

Palestinian militants are rarely able to cross into Israel from the Gaza corridor, which is blocked and closely monitored by the Israeli military.

Israeli television Channel 12 reported that infiltrators from Gaza had entered Kibbutz Beli, saying local residents urged the Israel Defense Forces to rush to the kibbutz.

Channel 12 also reported that infiltrators had taken hostages in Netiv HaAsara. Israeli authorities did not immediately confirm any details about the reports.

Social media videos obtained by showed multiple masked gunmen driving a pickup truck through the streets of the Israeli city of Sderot. Gunshots can also be heard in the video.

A woman was killed and at least 15 people were injured in attacks by militants in southern Israel and the lowlands, the latest news from Israel’s Magen David Adom aid agency said on Saturday morning.

The MDA said the slain woman was in her 60s, lowering her age from her 70s as had earlier reported.

Two people suffered serious injuries, six suffered moderate injuries and seven suffered minor injuries, the MDA said in a statement.

The MDA said teams “respond to areas with reports of downed missiles and live fire incidents” and urged people to follow authorities’ instructions and move to protected areas quickly and cautiously if sirens are sounded.

MDA spokesperson Zaki Heller also urged people to donate blood and said a special blood donation event would be organized in Tel Aviv on Saturday morning “due to the urgent need”.

A producer in Gaza witnessed the rockets being fired, with sirens blaring as far north as the Tel Aviv area, east of Beersheba and many other locations in between.

Social media videos obtained by showed that after the coastal city of Ashkelon was hit by a rocket attack, multiple cars were burning next to an apartment building and thick black smoke billowed in the air.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yove Galante are conducting a security assessment at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu’s office said.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world, an isolated coastal enclave covering 140 square miles and home to nearly 2 million people.

The territory is ruled by Hamas and has been largely cut off from the rest of the world due to Israel’s land, air and sea blockade of Gaza since 2007. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border crossing of Rafah.

Israel imposes severe restrictions on civilians’ freedom of movement and controls the import of basic supplies into a narrow coastal strip.

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