Israel and the Gaza Strip are at war after the start of a surprise and spectacular Hamas military offensive early Saturday morning, which fired thousands of rockets, infiltrated fighters into Israeli territory and captured an unknown number of 'Israelis.
This eruption of violence has already left 70 dead on the Israeli side, according to Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, and 232 dead on the Palestinian side, according to the Ministry of Health of Hamas, the Islamist movement in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007.
This is the deadliest escalation since the 11-day war in May 2021 between Hamas and the army Israeli.
“We are at war, this is not a simple operation or a cycle of violence, but a war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message. “We are at war and we will win.”
The offensive of the Palestinian Islamist movement comes on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in Israel, when the country is living in slow motion and many pilgrims and tourists flocked during this school holiday period.
It also takes place fifty years and one day after the start of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war which took Israel completely by surprise in the middle of Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) and led to the deaths of 2,600 Israelis and at least 9,500 deaths. dead and missing on the Arab side in three weeks of fighting.
The hostilities began before 6:30 a.m. local time, with a barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards neighboring Israeli towns but also deeper to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Taking advantage of the element of surprise, Hamas fighters aboard vehicles, boats and even motorized paragliders made use of the imposing security barrier erected by Israel around the Gaza Strip, attacking military positions or civilians in the middle of the street.
“Gates of Hell”
In an audio message broadcast by Hamas television, the commander of the Al-Qassam brigades, Mohammad Deif, announced that he had launched the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation against Israel and had fired more than “5,000 rockets” in total. . “We have decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation,” he added.
In response, the Israeli army launched Operation “Steel Sabers”, and, around 11:00 a.m., it announced it would carry out its first airstrikes on Gaza in retaliation.
“Dozens of fighter jets are currently striking targets of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip,” she said.
“Send help if there is please […], they are shooting at our house,” implored a pregnant woman living a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip, in a testimony relayed by the daily Times of Israel.
Journalists from the AFP saw armed Palestinians gathered around a burning Israeli tank and others driving an Israeli Humvee through the streets of Gaza.
At mid-morning, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli army spokesman, announced that troops are engaged in ground fighting on Israeli territory in “several locations around the Gaza Strip” against fighters infiltrators described as “terrorists”.
Saturday evening, Israeli airstrikes destroyed the three buildings of the “Palestine Tower” in Gaza, noted AFP journalists, who saw the three towers of more than ten floors collapse one after the other after explosions.
The Israeli army accused the “Hamas terrorist organization” of harboring its military infrastructure and said it warned residents before the strikes and “asked them to evacuate the area.”
In the West Bank occupied, two Palestinians were killed, in Ramallah and Jericho, and around fifty others injured during clashes with Israeli forces and settlers, said the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent.
Israeli General Rassan Alian, head of COGAT, the Defense Ministry body overseeing civilian activities in the Palestinian Territories, claimed that Hamas had “opened the gates of hell” and that it ” would pay the consequences.”
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing, claimed to have “captured several enemy soldiers” in a video showing at least three clearly frightened men in civilian clothes, detained by a squad of armed people with blurred faces.
The al-Quds Brigades, the military branch of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, also declared that they were holding “many Israeli soldiers”.
The Israeli army spokesperson confirmed in the evening that “soldiers and Israeli civilians” had been kidnapped during the infiltration of Hamas gunmen.
From the morning, hundreds of civilians fled their homes in the northeast of the Gaza Strip to move away from the border with Israel, according to an AFP correspondent.
“Hamas made a big mistake this morning,” Israeli soldiers “are fighting the enemy in every location,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Saturday evening , Israel ordered to cut off electricity supplies to Gaza, according to its Energy Minister.
UN announced that it had convened an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the Middle East on Sunday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the international community for “diplomatic efforts to avoid a widening of the conflagration” between Israel and Hamas.
US President Joe Biden, who spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu, “warns any actor hostile to Israel who seeks to take advantage of the situation,” according to a White House statement.
He affirmed that the United States “stands ready to offer all appropriate assistance to support the government and people of Israel.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed to his Israeli counterpart “his unwavering support for the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli people.”
The European Union and several European capitals “strongly condemned” the attacks.
« This horrific violence must stop immediately. Terrorism and violence solve nothing,” stressed the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.
French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned “the terrorist attacks currently hitting Israel.”
Russia called for “restraint” and Turkey to avoid escalation.
< p>In May, Israel launched an offensive against Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, triggering a five-day war between the Israeli army, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups in the territory that cost the lives of 34 Palestinians and one Israeli woman.
More than a thousand rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, most of them intercepted by the Israeli air defense system. Israel, for its part, had increased airstrikes on this territory.
Hamas had stayed away from the conflict.
Israel has imposed a strict blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control.
Canadian politicians condemn Hamas attack on Israel
The Canadian political class unanimously condemned the surprise attack launched by Hamas against Israel which cost the lives of at least 200 Israeli citizens on Saturday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly criticized “the terrorist attack currently being carried out against Israel.”
“This violence is completely unacceptable. We fully support Israel and its right to defend itself. Our thoughts are with everyone affected. Civilians must be protected,” he wrote in a message published on invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence they subsequently carried out against innocent civilians.”
“Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks and respond to the aggressors. Canadians are committed to standing in solidarity with all victims,” he said in a statement.
Yves-François Blanchet, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, strongly condemned the Hamas terrorist attack against Israel and its civilian population in a statement.
“We must indeed unequivocally denounce the violent and terrorist provocation of Hamas which, in addition to Israel's hostages and victims, exposes Palestinian civilians in all regions to terrible reprisals. Let us also avoid local partisan politics on the back of tragedies,” Mr. Blanchet wrote on X.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stressed that “civilians should never be targeted and all hostages must be released immediately. We fear what the coming days hold. Terrorism and violence solve nothing. »
Global Affairs Canada urged all Canadians in the affected areas to remain extremely cautious and stay sheltered until they can safely leave the area.
The authorities recall that the capacity of the Government of Canada to provide consular services in the Gaza Strip is limited. “In the event of deportation, local authorities are not required to inform the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv or the Canadian representative office in Ramallah. Therefore, Canadian officials may not be able to provide you with consular assistance.”
World Affairs reported that 1,419 registered Canadians were present on Israeli soil and 492 others in the Territories Palestinians.
“So far, there are no reports of injuries or deaths among these Canadians,” the agency wrote in an email, adding that all staff at the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv and that of the representative office to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah were safe and sound.
Israeli reprisals left at least 198 dead and 1,610 injured in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Minister of Health on site.
The Canadian Press