Israel Formally Declares War Against Hamas Following Surprise Attack
Israel formally declares war against Hamas following surprise attack in Gaza, marking a significant step towards a robust Israeli military response after the attack by the Islamist militant group on the Jewish state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously stated on Saturday that his country was effectively at war with Hamas during the ongoing attack, although this declaration was primarily rhetorical. The Cabinet's decision formalized this stance as an official declaration of war.
Before the Cabinet's vote, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel would retaliate strongly against Hamas, even as Israeli soldiers engaged in street battles with Hamas fighters in southern Israel and launched retaliatory airstrikes that resulted in the destruction of buildings in Gaza.
The specific nature of Israel's forthcoming response remained uncertain. Some experts in the Middle East have suggested the possibility of an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, which would represent a significant escalation in the conflict.
Whatever the response, Netanyahu warned, "This war will take time. It will be difficult."
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Major General Ghassan Alian, a prominent figure within the Israel Defense Forces, stated that Hamas had triggered a grave situation with its unexpected attack, describing it as an act that would come with consequences. Hamas would be held responsible and held accountable for its actions.
Israel reported that the conflict has resulted in the tragic loss of at least 600 lives within its borders, including 44 soldiers, with over 1,500 individuals sustaining injuries. Meanwhile, officials in Gaza confirmed the death toll at 313, with nearly 2,000 more people injured. An Israeli authority disclosed that their military had eliminated 400 militants and taken dozens into custody.
Additionally, it has come to light that Hamas has taken an undisclosed number of Israelis, including women, children, and the elderly, into captivity, possibly with the intent of using them in potential exchanges for Hamas prisoners.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on the "State of the Union" program that the United States is actively investigating reports suggesting that American citizens may have lost their lives in the recent conflict. The violence began on Saturday when Hamas launched a barrage of hundreds of missiles at Israeli targets and breached security barriers at the Israel-Gaza border.
Blinken called it "the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973."
The highest-ranking American diplomat affirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Israel, emphasizing that the primary priority for the U.S. is ensuring that Israel has the necessary resources to counter the Hamas fighters. Blinken announced that the U.S. would disclose further details regarding military assistance to Israel later on Sunday.
The White House confirmed that President Joe Biden had authorized additional, unspecified support for Israel following a briefing on the attack by national security officials, which he and Vice President Kamala Harris received.
Notably, one U.S. official, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, was present in Israel during the Hamas attack but found shelter safely before departing the country on Sunday.
I emphatically condemn Hamas' horrific acts of violence, kidnapping, and terror targeting Israeli families, children, and other civilians in towns and cities across the nation of Israel. I stand with the people of Israel and the families of those who have lost loved ones.- Senator Cory Booker
The surprise attack represented a substantial lapse in Israeli intelligence, although Blinken refrained from assigning blame at this point. He stated, "There will be plenty of time to see what anyone missed."
Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, mentioned on Saturday that Israel had been entirely unaware of the unfolding events. "We had no warning of any kind, and it was a total surprise that the war broke out this morning," he remarked. He further noted that it marked the first instance in which Palestinians had managed to infiltrate so deeply into Israeli territory.
The militants launched more than 3,000 missiles in less than 24 hours, according to Halevy. "This is beyond imagination from our point of view," Halvey said. "We didn't know they had this quantity of missiles, and we certainly didn’t expect that they would be as effective as they were today. ... As an operation, it was highly successful, unfortunately."
Since Hamas assumed control of Gaza in 2007, there have been four conflicts between Hamas and Israel. An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council was convened for Sunday to address the recent escalation in violence.
Israeli television news featured a series of interviews with relatives of Israelis who were either held captive or missing. These distraught relatives pleaded for assistance, as uncertainty shrouded the fate of their loved ones.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, residents residing near the border evacuated their homes to escape Israeli airstrikes. They sought refuge deeper within the territory following warnings in Arabic issued by the Israeli military.
The Israeli military announced that it was actively engaged on Sunday in efforts to eliminate any remaining Hamas fighters who had not withdrawn from Israeli territory after the surprise attack launched by the militant group.
An Israeli military official reported that a significant number of "terrorists" had been killed and captured. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed clashes in various locations in the southern region near the Gaza Strip, the point from which Hamas launched its attack on Saturday. These locations included the city of Sderot.
According to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesperson for the IDF, there might have been as many as 1,000 Hamas fighters who entered Israel on Saturday. On Sunday, Israel announced that it had conducted retaliatory airstrikes within the Gaza Strip, targeting sites such as the Hamas intelligence headquarters, a weapons production facility, and two banks. As a result of these attacks, much of Gaza experienced power outages. Israel maintains a blockade around the territory, and Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that Israel would reduce the supply of electricity, fuel, and other goods to Gaza.
Hamas continued its rocket attacks overnight, targeting several cities, including Tel Aviv. Simultaneously, the Israeli army engaged in a firefight with Hezbollah militants on the Lebanese border on Sunday, raising the possibility of a broader conflict. However, Secretary of State Blinken stated that the situation had somewhat calmed in that area.
While Lebanon and Israel are considered hostile states, a ceasefire in 2006 has generally held, with sporadic small rocket attacks from Lebanon to which Israel has responded with retaliatory measures.