Why the Palestinian group Hamas launched an attack on Israel? All to know

Hundreds killed as Israel bombards Gaza after Hamas launched surprise attack by land, air and sea.

Israel and Hamas are locked in a new cycle of escalating violence, after a surprise attack on Saturday involving aerial, sea and ground operations, initiated by the Palestinian group from the Gaza Strip. Israel has responded with a deadly bombardment of the blockaded coastal enclave.

Here is what to know:

What happened and when?

  • Early on Saturday morning, the Palestinian armed group Hamas launched “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” against Israel in the most serious escalation since their 11-day war in 2021.
  • Hamas said it had fired 5,000 rockets, while Israel confirmed that the group’s fighters had entered its territory.
  • Daniel Hagari, an Israeli army spokesperson, said that the group attacked from the land, sea and air.
  • The first round of rockets was fired at 6:30am local time (03:30 GMT).
  • The Israeli army also said it launched “Operation Iron Swords” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
  • The early-morning attacks occurred on Simchat Torah, a holiday which falls towards the conclusion of the weeklong Jewish festival known as Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.

Where did the attacks take place?

  • The rockets were fired as far north as Tel Aviv. Hamas also sent fighters into southern Israel.
  • Israeli media said that gunmen had opened fire on passers-by in the town of Sderot, and footage circulating on social media appeared to show clashes in city streets as well as gunmen in jeeps roaming the countryside. One report claimed Hamas fighters had taken control of multiple Israeli civilian population centres, where residents were begging for help from their government.
  • The Israeli army says dozens of fighter jets were carrying out attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
  • Gun battles are ongoing in several towns in southern Israel.


How many casualties in Israel and Palestine?

  • The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said that at least 413 people had been killed and nearly 2,300 wounded so far in Israeli attacks.
  • The Israeli death toll due to Hamas attacks rose to at least 700 people, according to the latest reports by Israeli media.
  • Israel’s health ministry has updated the number of Israelis wounded in the ongoing violence, saying 2,382 have been treated in hospitals so far.

Why did Hamas attack Israel?

  • Hamas spokesperson Khaled Qadomi has told Al Jazeera that the group’s military operation is in response to all the atrocities the Palestinians have faced over the decades.
  • “We want the international community to stop atrocities in Gaza, against Palestinian people, our holy sites like Al-Aqsa. All these things are the reason behind starting this battle,” he said.
  • “This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on Earth,” Mohammed Deif, the Hamas military commander said, adding that 5,000 rockets were launched.
  • “Everyone who has a gun should take it out. The time has come,” Deif said, according to reports.
  • Hamas called on “the resistance fighters in the West Bank” as well as “our Arab and Islamic nations” to join the battle, in a statement posted on Telegram.
  • Osama Hamdan, senior spokesperson for Hamas, told Al Jazeera that the group was not attacking civilians even though the group’s own videos have shown its fighters taking elderly Israelis hostage during the fighting on Saturday.
  • “You have to differentiate between settlers and civilians. Settlers attacked Palestinians,” Hamdan said.

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What is the Israeli government saying?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said his Security Cabinet has declared the country at war following the attack.
  • The decision, announced on Sunday, formally authorises “the taking of significant military steps”, it said in a statement.
  • “The war that was forced on the state of Israel in a murderous terrorist assault from the Gaza Strip began at 6:00 yesterday,” it said.

What is the latest on the ground?

  • Israel battered Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, and in a sign that the conflict could spread beyond blockaded Gaza, Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah exchanged artillery and rocket fire.
  • On Monday, gun battles continued between Hamas fighters and Israeli forces in three main areas in southern Israel – at a kibbutz in Karmia and in the cities of Ashkelon and Sderot.
  • Our correspondent, Charles Stratford, who is in Israel’s Ashdod, said he received reports of an “ongoing hostage situation” in the settlement of Kfar Aza, east of Gaza.
  • Israeli air attacks and shelling aimed at houses and apartment buildings have displaced some 123,538 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the UN humanitarian relief agency.
  • Israel’s military, which faces questions over its failure to prevent the attack, said it was still fighting but had regained control of most infiltration points along security barriers.
  • Follow all the latest updates on our Live page.

What are the international reactions so far?

  • People around the world have taken to the streets of their cities in support of both Palestine and Israel as fighting continues. Some of the countries where people were seen waving flags in support of Palestine include Spain, South Africa and Syria.
  • In North America, protests took place in support of Palestine in the US cities of Chicago and New York and the Canadian city of Ottawa.
  • Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign chief, Josep Borrell, expressed solidarity with Israel.
  • The French foreign ministry said France condemned the “terrorist attacks under way against Israel and its population” and that France expressed its full solidarity with Israel.
  • The UK “unequivocally condemns” the surprise attack by Palestinian group Hamas on Israel on Saturday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel” and that India stands “in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour”.
  • Egypt warned of “grave consequences” from an escalation in a statement from the foreign ministry carried by the state news agency on Saturday. It called for “exercising maximum restraint and avoiding exposing civilians to further danger”.

  • Lebanese group Hezbollah issued a statement on Saturday saying it was closely following the situation in Gaza and was in “direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance”.
  • An adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said Iran supported the Palestinians’ attack, the semiofficial ISNA news site reported.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies