Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the country was “at war” on Saturday, after Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a deadly barrage of rockets and sent gunmen into Israeli territory in a major escalation of the long running conflict between the two sides.
The Israeli military said about 2,200 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, while armed terror groups infiltrated into Israel by land, sea and air – in paragliders. Multiple explosions were heard over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and in southern Israel – some blasts likely the interceptions of incoming rockets – while air raids sent Israelis pouring into underground shelters.
By nightfall, at least 200 Israelis had been killed, according to Israel’s emergency rescue service, Zaka, and hundreds more injured.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Hamas had taken “hostages and prisoners of war” but did not give a figure.
Israel responded by launching strikes on what it called Hamas targets in Gaza. The Palestinian health ministry said that 232 Palestinians had been killed and 1,697 injured, but did not say where the deaths occurred or whether the toll included Hamas militants or civilians in Gaza.
The Palestine Tower, a high-rise building with two annexes in Gaza City, was hit by an explosion and collapsed, video showed.
Netanyahu said operations were under way to “clear communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists” and that he had also issued a call-up of reservists.
“We are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war,” Netanyahu said in a video statement, adding that Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that runs Gaza, had “launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens.”