On Saturday, October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a coordinated attack on Israel from air, land and sea, killing hundreds of Israelis and taking dozens of hostages, including some Americans. The attack was one of the worst on Israel in decades, and sparked a fierce response from the Israeli government, which declared war on Hamas and launched airstrikes on Gaza.
The attack began with a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza toward Israeli cities, followed by a ground invasion by Hamas militants who crossed the border fence into southern Israel. The gunmen killed Israelis in several towns near the Gaza border and captured both soldiers and civilians, taking them back to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Some of the captives were reportedly a Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair and four Americans, whose identities have not been confirmed yet.
The Israeli death toll is at least 600, local news outlets Haaretz and the Times of Israel reported Sunday morning, rising sharply from 300 as Israeli officials cleared more border areas that were infiltrated by Hamas militants. More than 1,600 Israelis are injured, according to the Israel Ministry of Health. Roughly 413 Palestinians have been killed and 2,300 have been injured in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said Sunday.
Hamas demands release of all Palestinian prisoners in exchange for hostages
Ziad Nakhaleh, leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group that participated in Saturday’s attack along with Hamas, said Gaza militants have dozens of Israeli captives, including over 30 by his group alone. He added that they won’t be released until Israel releases all Palestinian prisoners, a demand that Israel has rejected.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also said that the attack was a “message” to Israel that it cannot “impose its conditions” on the Palestinians. He claimed that the attack was a response to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, its expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and its recent clashes with Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Israel’s Security Cabinet has approved a formal declaration of war, meaning the country can now take “significant military steps”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Sunday. He said that Israel will “respond with great force” to the attack and will “not stop until we restore security” to the Israeli people. An Israeli military spokesperson hinted that Israel may try to take full control of Gaza for the first time since 2005, and more than 20 communities near Gaza are being evacuated.
Hezbollah joins the fray with attacks on Golan Heights
Early Sunday, Hezbollah – a Lebanese militant group – attacked three Israeli positions in the disputed Golan Heights, the Associated Press reported. The group said that the attack was in support of the “Palestinian resistance” and warned Israel of more strikes if it continues its aggression. There were no immediate casualties reported.
The Golan Heights is a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Syria and its allies, including Iran and Hezbollah, have vowed to liberate the territory from Israeli occupation. The attack by Hezbollah marks an escalation of the conflict between Israel and its enemies in the region, raising fears of a wider war.
The US and other countries have expressed concern over the situation and called for restraint from all sides. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the US is “working overtime” to verify reports of missing and dead Americans overseas after the Hamas attack. He also said that President Joe Biden’s direction was to “make sure that we’re providing Israel everything it needs in this moment to deal with the attacks from Hamas”. He said that an announcement on additional aid to Israel could be announced as soon as Sunday.