Rockets are launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. InternationalIndiaAfricaOleg BurunovIsrael’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas after the Gaza-based militant group’s surprise attack against the state on Saturday. How’s the situation developing? Check out Sputnik to find out.
Beginning: Siren Heard ‘Across Israel’
In the early hours of Saturday, air raid sirens were heard in southern and central Israel in response to missile strikes by the militant group Hamas.The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in turn, said that they had retaliated by hitting targets in the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, Israelis across the country “woke up to sirens sounding and Hamas firing rockets at them from Gaza.”The IDF also claimed that it is fighting in several locations in the state as some Israeli residents insist that Hamas fighters were trying to break into their homes.
‘Day of Greatest Battle’
Senior Hamas commander Mohammad Deif, in turn, was quoted by a US news agency as saying that about 5,000 rockets had already been launched at Israel and that the militant group “has decided to say enough is enough.”© AP Photo / Hatem MoussaRockets are launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Rockets are launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
"This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” Deif said, in an apparent nod to Israel as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians have long tried to establish a state.
He was echoed by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who touted the Hamas operation as a “decisive response to Israel’s continued occupation and a message to those seeking normalization with Israel.”Palestinian media has, meanwhile, reported that an array of Israelis have been taken captive by Hamas fighters and Hamas media posted what looked like a destroyed Israeli tank. The footage cannot be independently verified.Another American news outlet reported that Hamas had captured several Israeli soldiers near the border after the militants entered the Jewish state “by land, sea and air using paragliders.”
‘We are at War’
In an address to Israeli citizens earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “we are at war”.
"Not an operation, not a round [of fighting,] at war! This morning Hamas, [which is seen by Tel Aviv as a terrorist group] initiated a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens," Netanyahu pointed out.
He pledged that “the enemy will pay an unprecedented price for the attack, which reportedly claimed the lives of 22 Israelis ,” and that his country will “win this war.”Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for his part, said that “Hamas made a grave mistake this morning” by infiltrating southern Israel. According to him, IDF soldiers, who kicked off Operation Iron Swords, “are fighting the enemy at all the infiltration sites”.
Russia, Turkey Urge Restraint
Russia is in contact with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries on the issue of exacerbation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has told Sputnik.“We are in contact with everyone and call on them to cease fire and return to the negotiating table. How will they respond to our calls? Well, we want all the issues to be resolved by peaceful means and on the basis of mutual interests,” Bogdanov underscored.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, urged the conflicting parties “to act with restraint […] and to stay away from impulsive steps that will escalate tensions.”Speaking at his ruling party congress in Ankara on Saturday, Erdogan also urged against “any kind of attempt” to harm the “historical and religious status” of Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
‘Two Reasons’ for Standoff – Analyst
In an interview with Sputnik, Professor Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and former deputy director-general and head of the Palestinian desk at the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, has meanwhile warned of far-reaching implications from the current Israel-Hamas armed standoff.
Pfor. Michael said that Israel is in “a huge mess,” but that at the end of the day, “things will be changed” and “this might be found as a unique opportunity for Israel and for its allies here in the region to change the existing balance of power on the equation.”
He insisted that the Jewish state has been at war with Hamas “at least since 2018, but most recently in the last year and a half. The expert bemoaned the fact that “the Israeli leadership in the last year has failed to contain the situation and to keep calm at any price.”
The scholar suggested that there are “two reasons” for the current hostilities, including “the normalization process that we are witnessing with Saudi Arabia [and Israel].”
“This is something the Iranians really don’t like and Hamas really doesn’t like. And they do all the possible efforts in order to escalate the situation, to destabilize the situation, in order to embarrass the Saudis in order to prevent the Saudis from making any sort of advance in this process,” he pointed out.According to Prof. Michael, another reason pertains to “the domestic political crisis in Israel,” with Hamas believing that “the Israeli government is pretty occupied with all of its domestic problems” and that the IDF will be unable to retaliate.
“Everybody understands that this such an attack is not a spontaneous thing. This is something that is planned long before. Unfortunately, we were not able to foresee it. And it’s a failure of our intelligence on the one hand and the risk of operational military failure on the other that such a thing has happened. And they succeeded in penetrating Israeli settlements and the towns and to do what they did,” the expert noted.
He also argued that Hamas is “historically at a turning point,” because the group “is not going to be what it used to be before, also after this war.” Dwelling on the people of Gaza, the pundit predited that they would pay “a very heavy price” and this finally “might be an opportunity for the region to reshape the regional architecture.”