HomeLatest NewsIsrael launches airstrikes on Gaza following a Hamas attack, raising concerns of...

Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza following a Hamas attack, raising concerns of a worsening conflict

By Maayan Lubell and Nidal al-Mughrabi
Israel launched a heavy assault on Gaza on Sunday, following one of the deadliest attacks in decades. Hamas fighters had infiltrated Israeli towns, killing hundreds of people and abducting an unknown number of others. The situation threatens to escalate into a major new war in the Middle East. Israeli artillery responded to mortar fire from Lebanon, and drone strikes targeted a post belonging to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia along Israel’s northern border.

Overnight airstrikes by Israel targeted housing blocks, tunnels, a mosque, and homes of Hamas officials in Gaza. The strikes resulted in the deaths of over 300 people, including 20 children. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to seek “mighty vengeance” for the attack. Meanwhile, Hamas gunmen continued to engage Israeli security forces in southern Israel, 24 hours after their surprise assault.

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The Israeli military reported that it had regained control of most infiltration points and killed hundreds of Palestinian attackers. It also took dozens of prisoners. However, fighting was still ongoing in some areas. Tens of thousands of soldiers were deployed in the region surrounding Gaza, and plans were made to evacuate all Israelis living near the territory’s frontier.

Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif al-Qanoua stated that the attack was carried out in defense of the Palestinian people. He added that Hamas fighters would continue rocket strikes and operations behind enemy lines. This attack represents the largest and deadliest incursion into Israel since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago when Egypt and Syria launched a sudden assault.

The conflict has the potential to undermine efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could affect Palestinian aspirations for self-determination. It may also constrain Hamas’ main supporter, Iran. Israel’s army spokesperson warned Hezbollah, Lebanon’s other main regional ally, not to get involved in the conflict.

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The aftermath of Saturday’s attack left southern Israeli towns and border communities in shock. Bloodied bodies were scattered across the streets, cars, and homes. At least 250 Israelis were killed, including senior military officers. Hamas fighters escaped back into Gaza, taking hostages, including soldiers and civilians.

Hamas continued firing rocket salvos into Israel on Sunday, prompting air raid sirens across the south. The Israeli military announced a combination of evacuating border areas and searching for additional gunmen. Netanyahu’s office confirmed that his security cabinet had approved measures to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad for an extended period. These measures include cutting off electricity, fuel supplies, and the entry of goods into Gaza.

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza commenced shortly after the Hamas attack and continued overnight. Their targets included Hamas’ offices, training camps, as well as civilian homes and buildings. Palestinian health officials reported that 313 people had been killed, and nearly 2,000 were wounded in the retaliatory strikes. The sky was filled with black smoke, orange flashes, and sparks from the explosions. Israeli drones were heard overhead. Unlike previous strikes, Israel did not provide advance warning before targeting residential buildings.

The escalation of violence occurs amidst heightened tensions between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The West Bank has experienced increased Israeli raids, Palestinian street attacks, and assaults by Jewish settlers on Palestinian villages. Palestinians’ conditions have deteriorated under Netanyahu’s hard-right government. The peace process has been stagnant for years, and Israeli politics have been plagued by internal disputes over Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned that the assault on Gaza would spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Gazans have endured a 16-year Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. Haniyeh emphasized threats to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, the continuation of the blockade on Gaza, and Israeli normalization with countries in the region.

In the north, Lebanon’s Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a rocket and artillery attack on three posts, including a radar site, in the occupied Shebaa Farms. Israel responded with artillery fire on southern Lebanon. No casualties were reported.

Western countries, led by the United States, condemned the attack. President Joe Biden issued a stern warning to Iran and other hostile parties, urging them not to exploit the situation. Hamas leader Osama Hamdan stated that Arab states should realize that accepting Israeli security demands would not bring peace. Demonstrations in support of Hamas took place across the Middle East, while Iran and Hezbollah praised the attack.

Israel’s lack of preparedness for the attack was seen as a significant intelligence failure, one of the worst in the nation’s history. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange indexes opened nearly 5% lower on Sunday.

Overall, the situation remains highly volatile and has the potential to escalate further, with serious implications for the region.

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