At about 6 A.M. on Saturday, thousands of rockets were launched from Gaza on cities across central and southern Israel, reaching as far as Jerusalem, while Palestinian fighters infiltrated communities in the country’s south by land, sea, and air.
According to reports by Israeli Newspaper Haaretz, “at least 250 Israelis were killed and over 1,600 were wounded throughout the day”.
On Saturday evening, a spokesperson said the army had regained control of most of the Gaza border communities infiltrated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. The military confirmed on Saturday afternoon that a “substantial” amount of Israeli civilians and soldiers are being held hostage in the Gaza Strip by Hamas militants.
In the southern cities of Be’eri and Ofakim, Israeli civilians were held captive by terrorists in their homes, which prompted an outcry from a number of U.S. agencies and officials. Israeli forces released all hostages at these locations later in the night.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir declared a national state of emergency that went into effect in the evening and called to recruit all police volunteers across the country.
The Israeli army has responded to the wave of attacks by striking Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, which continued overnight. Palestinians report some 230 killed and over 1,700 wounded in Israeli airstrikes.
Israel’s security cabinet convened Saturday night, reaching a number of operational decisions aimed at “destroying the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas,” according to PM Netanyahu. These include halting electricity and fuel supply and the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip.
“Israel is at war. This is not a so-called military operation,” Netanyahu said on Saturday. Speaking at the security cabinet meeting, he said that Israel’s first goal is “to purge the area of enemy forces that have infiltrated and restore security and peace to the towns that were attacked.”
Netanyahu’s Likud party later stated that the prime minister offered opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to form an emergency unity government.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday “This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks,” adding “The world is watching.” Biden said that “The United States stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorist assaults,” adding that “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Full stop.”
Tens of thousands of Israeli army reserve personnel are also set to be mobilized, and a number of reserve troops participating in the protest movement against the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul are returning to reserve duty in light of the incident.