Israeli PM declares war against Palestinian militants after border attack
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday declared war against Palestinian militants after they led a deadly, multi-front attack in his country that left at least 250 people dead.
Netanyahu said in a televised address he was mobilizing his forces for an extensive assault in Gaza after an attack from the Palestinian militant group Hamas “launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens.”
“We are at war — not in an operation or at rounds, but in a war,” the Israeli leader said. “The enemy will pay an unprecedented price. … We are at war and we will win it.”
Hamas, the militant and political group that rules Gaza, sent forces into Israel and launched a barrage of rocket strikes in a surprise offensive, wounding hundreds of people in addition to the 250 killed, according to The Times of Israel and local Israeli media reports.
Palestinian militants infiltrated the country and videos showed wide-scale attacks, including burning rubble and armored vehicles rolling through. Fighting is still reportedly ongoing.
“Israelis across the country—on Shabbat and the holiday of Simchat Torah—woke up to sirens sounding and Hamas firing rockets at them from Gaza this morning,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) wrote on X.
The IDF confirmed it was launching an operation called “Swords of Iron” to clear out militant groups in Gaza and had already begun strikes against Hamas.
The surprise attack from Hamas led to immediate condemnation from world leaders around the country.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the U.S. “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians.”
“There is never any justification for terrorism. We stand firmly with the Government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks,” she said in a statement. “National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken to Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and we remain in close contact with our Israeli partners.”
Netanyahu sat down with his security council leaders and afterward said the focus of the operation would be to defeat the militants responsible for the attack and to secure the border and protect against any other assaults.
After the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, Israel and Palestine fought a war that resulted in the mass displacement of Palestinians.
Both ethnic groups have remained in a state of high conflict ever since, with Israel occupying the West Bank, where many Palestinians live, and imposing a blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Netanyahu’s far-right government has spurred even more conflict, launching a major raid earlier this year on the Jenin refugee camp to root out militant groups.
Updated 4:02 p.m.