On Saturday, the Gaza-based Palestinian armed group Hamas initiated a large-scale offensive against Israel, launching an estimated 5,000 rockets and reportedly infiltrating the Israeli border at various points. The operation, named by Hamas as “Al-Aqsa Storm”, saw an immense escalation in the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict.
The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Iron Dome system reportedly intercepted numerous rockets. However, due to the sheer volume of the projectiles, some breached the defenses, resulting in casualties and damage.
Various media sources and videos on social media platforms depicted the extent of the infiltration. Scenes emerged of Palestinian militants capturing five Israeli soldiers, later displayed in a procession through the Gaza Strip. Additionally, videos revealed abductions of Israeli prisoners from settlements, subsequently transported on motorcycles within Gaza.
Israeli settlements experienced targeted strikes, with videos depicting unsettling scenes. The town of Sderot, near the Gaza border, was notably affected. Videos on social media showed individuals in military attire patrolling its streets, though the authenticity of this footage hasn’t been immediately verified.
Moreover, reports from ‘Haaretz’ revealed armed Palestinians within a settlement west of Beersheba. Claims emerged of Palestinian militants infiltrating multiple Israeli settlements, with some areas reportedly under their control. Following these events, sirens blared in Jerusalem, leading to clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants near Gaza. Central and southern airports in Israel were temporarily closed due to the attacks.
While the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that Hamas took “hostages and prisoners of war,” they did not immediately provide a specific number. Preliminary figures from Israel’s health ministry suggest that approximately 200 Israelis have been killed, with an additional 1,452 injured.
Concurrently, several Arab media outlets reported the high-profile capture of Major General Nimrod Aloni by Hamas militants. However, this claim was subsequently refuted by official sources from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
On the Palestinian side, the health ministry reported a death toll of 232 and stated that 1,697 others had sustained injuries. However, distinctions between civilian and militant casualties in these figures remain unspecified.
Responding to these developments, the Israeli military initiated a counter-operation named “Iron Swords”, targeting suspected Hamas locations in Gaza. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, convened an emergency security meeting, underscoring the gravity of the current situation by proclaiming a state of “war”.
This unprecedented escalation has triggered international concern, with nations and global institutions urging both sides to cease hostilities immediately.