LONDON — At least 22 people have died and more than 500 people have been injured after rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel by Hamas militants.
The Israeli Defense Forces have declared “a state of alert for war,” according to a statement issued by the IDF early Saturday morning.
“The IDF declares a state of alert for war. Over the past hour, the Hamas terrorist organization launched massive barrages of rockets from Gaza into Israel, and its terrorist operatives have infiltrated into Israel in a number of different locations in the south,” according to the IDF.
“Civilians in southern and central Israel must remain near shelters, and in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, inside shelters. The Chief of the General staff is currently conducting a situational assessment and approving plans for the IDF’s continued activity. The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible for these attacks and will face consequences for them,” the IDF continued.
Palestinian militants fired at least 2,200 rockets toward Israel, the IDF said. Meanwhile, Hamas claimed at least 5,000 rockets were fired, all landing in southern and central Israel.
Air raid sirens began sounding in Jerusalem at 8:15 a.m. local time warning citizens of the attack.
So far, at least six people in Israel have been killed and more than 250 injured.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a video statement on social media, saying simply, “We are at war. We will win,” in his first comments, made in Hebrew, after the attack.
“Citizens of Israel, We are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war. This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours. I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered – first of all – to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists,” Netanyahu said. “This currently is being carried out. At the same time, I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price. In the meantime, I call on the citizens of Israel to strictly adhere to the directives of the IDF and Home Front Command. We are at war and we will win it.”
Elsewhere, the IDF confirmed that they are striking Hamas targets in Gaza as a result of the incursion, according to a statement on social media.
In a statement issued early Saturday morning, the U.S. embassy said that it is “closely monitoring” the security situation after an unknown number of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel in a surprise attack.
“The U.S. Embassy is aware that there have been casualties as a result of these incidents. U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness as security incidents, including mortar and rocket fire, often take place without warning,” the embassy said in the statement announcing the security alert.
U.S. Embassy personnel are currently sheltering in place and the ambassador condemned the attack in a message on social media, saying “I condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. I am in contact with Israeli officials, and fully support Israel’s right to defend itself from such terrorist acts.”
“The United States unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism,” read a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, condemning the attacks against Israel. “We stand firmly with the Government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken to Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and we remain in close contact with our Israeli partners.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says his people have the right to defend themselves against the “terror of settlers and occupation troops”, according to the Reuters news agency.
Today marks the day that 50 years ago in 1973 when the Yom Kippur War — or the Arab/Israeli War — began.