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Israel under fire amid massive air and ground attack by Hamas

Israel under fire amid massive air and ground attack by Hamas

by host

Israel was struck by a surprise rocket barrage and dozens of heavily armed gunmen attacked the country’s south from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, as the Islamist militant group Hamas announced the launch of a military operation.

It is one of the most serious escalations in years between Israel and the militant group that rules Gaza.

Israel’s defense minister said Hamas had started a war against Israel and pledged that “Israel will win.” Following a security cabinet meeting at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv Saturday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that Hamas “made a grave mistake,” the Associated Press reported.

The chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, declared a state of war readiness.

Israel’s national emergency service said that one person has been killed and another 15 wounded in the onslaught that hit towns and cities across the south and center of the country in the early hours of Saturday.

The death toll is likely to rise as pictures and videos on social media suggest that several civilians may have been injured or killed during an attack on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, at the border with the Gaza strip. Those images appear to show uniformed Palestinian gunmen opening fire on civilians and civilian vehicles on the streets.

“Hamas … which is behind this attack, will bear the results and responsibility for the events,” the armed forces said in a statement.

Amid reports of widespread infiltration of Hamas fighters, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced he had given the green light for army reservists to be called up for active service. The middle eastern nation’s defense forces are heavily reliant on 465,000 eligible part-time soldiers, and the number called up will depend on how the situation unfolds, Gallant said.

Mohammed Deif, the de facto leader of the Gaza headquartered Hamas group, issued a recorded message prior to the attacks, declaring the start of “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm” — a reference to the symbolic mosque that stands on Temple Mount in East Jerusalem.

“Enough is enough,” he said, calling on Palestinians to take up arms against Israel.

Seth Franzman, a regional political analyst in Jerusalem, told POLITICO that he and his family had been “woken up by sirens and rocket fire at around 8 in the morning.” He added: “We could see the explosions from our balcony. My family’s in the shelter now because, even though Israel has advanced air defenses, things can fall out of the sky when they’re intercepted.”

“This is a pretty major surprise attack,” said Franzman, who also works as an editor for The Jerusalem Post, “because there wasn’t the usual back and forth drumbeat between Israel and Hamas that takes place before escalations. This is totally different.”

The EU condemned the attacks. “We unequivocally condemn the attacks by Hamas,” Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, said in a statement. “The EU expresses its solidarity with Israel in these difficult moments.”

“This horrific violence must stop immediately. Terrorism and violence solve nothing,” Borrell said.

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