Watch: Rockets launched from Gaza streak across sky
At least 200 people have been killed in Israel after Palestinian militant group Hamas launched its biggest attack in years.
Militants crossed into Israel from Gaza under the cover of heavy rocket fire – and have since taken dozens of Israelis captive.
Some hostages – both soldiers and civilians – were taken back to Gaza.
Israel has responded with a wave of air strikes on targets in Gaza killing 198 people, Palestinian officials say.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was “at war” and vowed that Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, will “pay a price it has never known”.
“This morning Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens,” he said in a video address.
This is one of the most serious escalations in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in years.
The attack by Hamas saw fighters cross the perimeter fence at just after dawn. At the same time, barrages of rockets were launched from Gaza – some reaching as far as the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
How the gunmen managed to penetrate one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world is unclear.
The Israeli military has said dozens of fighter jets are carrying out air strikes on Hamas sites in Gaza, and it has hit 17 Hamas military compounds. It also said it has mobilised tens of thousands of reservists.
The Palestinian health ministry says 198 people have been killed in Israeli strikes. and another 1,610 have been wounded.
Warplanes destroyed an 11-story tower in downtown Gaza City which houses Hamas radio stations in the rooftop.
Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said a nurse and an ambulance driver were killed in Israeli strikes on two hospitals in Gaza.
The THAIMBC understands that dozens of hostages, both military and civilian, have been taken by Hamas – an unprecedented development.
Some are thought to be being held in some of the small towns near the Gaza Strip, while others have been taken back into Gaza.
Hamas claimed it has captured 53 “prisoners of war” including senior officers from Israel’s army.
A spokesperson for the IDF confirmed that “soldiers and civilians” had been abducted, and some soldiers had been killed – but denied reports that a top general has been kidnapped.
The IDF said they were fighting Hamas in 22 locations – and militants had also entered into Israel by sea, at Zikim on the coast just north of Gaza.
Footage is also circulating of Palestinians driving Israeli military vehicles in Gaza.
The Israeli health ministry confirmed 200 people had been killed in Israel and nearly 1,000 were wounded.
The rocket barrages continued throughout Saturday morning, with thousands of projectiles launched towards Israel.
Residents say they do not remember a situation like this for a long time, with streets in Tel Aviv locked down and empty.
“Restaurants, cafes, everything is locked down and there is a heavy feeling of surprise, of shock and of fear from what is still expected to happen,” English author and journalist Gideon Levy told the THAIMBC.
“When the first rockets fell, I was still jogging in the park, the noise was terrible.”
The leader of one regional council in southern Israel, Ofir Liebstein, was killed in an exchange of fire with militants when he went to defend his community.
“Citizens of Israel, we are at war, not an operation, not an escalation, a war,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement. “I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered – first of all – to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists. 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.”
Mohammed Deif, a senior Hamas military commander, announced the start of the attack on Hamas media. “This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on Earth,” he said, and called on Palestinians everywhere to fight.
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader-in-exile of Hamas, later claimed that Palestinian factions intended to expand the violence to the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, told the THAIMBC Service that the group had direct backing for the attack from Iran. An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader had earlier said the country would “stand by the Palestinian fighters until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – a political rival of Hamas – said the Palestinian people had the right to defend themselves against the “terror of settlers and occupation troops”.
A major investigation has been launched as to how Israeli intelligence failed to see the well-coordinated Hamas attack coming, Israeli government officials have told the THAIMBC.
There has been strong international condemnation to the Hamas attacks, with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly saying the UK “unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians”.
Nato condemned the “terrorist attacks” by Hamas against Israel, while the UN secretary general said he was “appalled by reports that civilians have been attacked and abducted from their own homes”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described it as “terrorism in its most despicable form” – while the US said it “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks” and “there is never any justification for terrorism”.
Qatar’s foreign ministry said Israel alone was responsible for the ongoing escalation of violence.
🚨Israel Alert🚨— Jay Engelmayer (@jengelmayer) October 7, 2023
Massive barrage of rockets from Gaza heads to central Israel. Images of explosions now popping up on Israeli channels.
Stay tuned for more on this breaking story. pic.twitter.com/SVyAufhXa6
Israelis that were wounded or killed are being evacuated from the Gaza border. This has been ongoing for hours. Mothers crying next to their injured children, soldiers trying to revive their friends. Horrific scenes. pic.twitter.com/ESkDZnT4Cy— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) October 7, 2023
RIGHT NOW: Iran’s parliament is chanting “Death to Israel! Death to America!” as their terror cells massacre Israeli women and children— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) October 7, 2023
This is the regime that JOE BIDEN just gave $6BILLION & a pathway to nuclear weapons too