The Israeli Defense Forces reported that over 2,000 rockets were fired at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip between 7.30am and 8am (local time). Some of these rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defence systems. Sirens went off in several Israeli cities, including the capital, Tel Aviv. A number of rockets hit their targets in cities such as Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Following the attack, the military wing of Hamas, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, declared the launch of ‘Operation Aqsa Storm’ against Israel. The commander of the Brigades, Muhammad al-Deif, said they had fired 5,000 rockets and mortars in the initial phase of the operation. Al-Deif cited Israeli violations as the reason for the operation and called on the Arab and Islamic world to unite against Israel.
Hamas claimed to have taken control of the Kerem Abu Salem crossing, which is located on the south-eastern border of the Gaza Strip and belongs to Israel, as well as surrounding military positions.
The attack was immediately supported by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which has close ties to Iran. Both organisations called for unity against Israel.
The Israeli Defense Forces confirmed reports that an armed group from Gaza had infiltrated Israeli territory, prompting the declaration of a state of war.
“We are at war and we will win it,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the country’s air force began attacking Hamas targets in Gaza, with dozens of fighter jets taking part in the attack. The counter-offensive was dubbed ‘Operation Iron Swords’.
Israeli authorities said the rocket attacks had killed at least 22 Israelis and injured at least 545.
Gaza, although part of the Palestinian territories, has been under Israeli blockade for 18 years, leading to frequent confrontations between the two sides.