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Deadly weekend of violence – Israeli forces clash with Hamas gunmen after hundreds killed

Deadly weekend of violence – Israeli forces clash with Hamas gunmen after hundreds killed
A rocket is launched from the coastal Gaza strip towards Israel by militants of the Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam militia, the military wing of Hamas movement, in Gaza City, 07 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER)

Israeli forces clashed with gunmen from the Palestinian group Hamas on Sunday, 24 hours after the militants launched a surprise attack on Israel in which about 500 people were killed in the deadliest day of violence in Israel for 50 years.

The conflict was spreading, with fire from Lebanon into northern Israel, which the armed group Hezbollah said it carried out “in solidarity” with the Palestinian people.

Israeli forces responded with artillery strikes into Lebanon and a drone attack on a Hezbollah post near the border, the military said. There were no reports of casualties.

Here is a summary of the weekend conflict:

  • About 500 Israelis and Palestinians dead
  • Hamas says it has taken many Israeli captives
  • Israel says Hamas has launched ‘cruel and wicked war’
  • World condemns violence, U.S. vows support for Israel

The incursion from Gaza into southern Israel, the biggest in decades, could undermine US-backed efforts to forge regional security alignments that could threaten Palestinian aspirations for statehood and the ambitions of the group’s main backer, Iran.

Hamas fighters began their attack at dawn on Saturday with a huge barrage of rockets into southern Israel, giving cover to an unprecedented, multi-pronged infiltration of fighters into Israel from Gaza, a narrow strip that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

Hamas fighters killed at least 250 Israelis in clashes throughout Saturday and into Sunday, and escaped back into Gaza with dozens of hostages. More than 250 Gazans were killed when Israel responded with one of its most devastating days of retaliatory strikes.

“We will take mighty vengeance for this wicked day,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.

An Israeli military spokesperson said operations were going on in eight areas around Gaza on Sunday, while Al Hadath TV cited the Palestinian Red Crescent as saying 18 people had been killed in Israeli targeting of two homes in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun district.

Palestinian health officials said 20 children were among 256 civilians killed. Nearly 1,800 people were wounded, they said.

In the north, Iran-backed Hezbollah said in a statement it had carried out a rocket and artillery attack on three posts including a “radar site” in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, a slice of land occupied by Israel since 1967 that Lebanon claims.

Israel responded with artillery fire on southern Lebanon. There were no reports of casualties.

The escalation comes against a backdrop of surging violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where a Palestinian authority exercises limited self-rule, opposed by Hamas that wants Israel destroyed.

The West Bank has seen stepped-up Israeli raids, Palestinian street attacks and assaults by Jewish settlers on Palestinian villages. Conditions for Palestinians have worsened under Netanyahu’s hard-right government. Peacemaking has been stalled for years.

Palestinians ride an Israeli military jeep in the streets of Gaza during the storming of Israeli settlements by militants of the Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam militia, the military wing of Hamas movement, Gaza city, 07 October 2023. Rocket barrages were launched from the Gaza Strip early Saturday in a surprise attack claimed by the Islamist movement Hamas. EPA-EFE/HAITHAM IMAD

‘We warned you’

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the assault that began in Gaza would spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Gazans have lived under an Israeli blockade for 16 years.

In a speech, Haniyeh highlighted threats to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, the continuation of an Israeli the blockade on Gaza and Israeli normalization with countries in the region.

“How many times have we warned you that the Palestinian people have been living in refugee camps for 75 years, and you refuse to recognise the rights of our people?”

Bodies of Israeli civilians surrounded by broken glass were strewn across the streets of Sderot in southern Israel near Gaza. The bodies of a man and woman were sprawled across the front seats of a car.

Terrified Israelis, barricaded into safe rooms, recounted their plight by phone on live television.

Senior military officers were among those killed in fighting near Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Netanyahu’s office said his security cabinet had approved steps to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group, “for many years”, including cutting electricity, fuel supplies and the entry of goods into Gaza.

In Gaza, black smoke, orange flashes and sparks lit the sky from explosions. Israeli drones could be heard overhead.

Gaza’s dead and wounded were carried into crumbling and overcrowded hospitals with severe shortages of medical supplies and equipment. The health ministry said 232 people had been killed and at least 1,700 wounded.

Biden offers support to Netanhayu 

Western countries, led by the United States, denounced the attack

US President Joe Biden said Israel had the right to defend itself.  (Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

At the White House, President Joe Biden went on national television to say Israel had the right to defend itself, issuing a blunt warning to Iran and other countries: “This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching.”

The United States has been seeking a deal to normalise ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, seen by Israelis as the biggest prize yet in their decades-long quest for Arab recognition. Palestinians fear any such agreement could sell out their dreams of an independent state.

Osama Hamdan, the leader of Hamas in Lebanon, told Reuters that Saturday’s operation should make Arab states realize that accepting Israeli security demands would not bring peace.

Across the Middle East, there were demonstrations in support of Hamas, with Israeli and U.S. flags set on fire and marchers waving Palestinian flags in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Iran and Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese allies, praised the Hamas attack.

Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri told Al Jazeera the group was holding a large number of Israeli captives, including senior officials. He said Hamas had enough captives to make Israel free all Palestinians in its jails.

Hamas said the attack was driven by what it called escalated Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and against Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

That Israel was caught completely off guard was lamented as one of the worst intelligence failures in its history, a shock to a nation that boasts of its intensive infiltration and monitoring of militants. DM/Reuters

 (Reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ammar Anwar in SderotAdditional reporting by Henriette Chacar, Emily Rose and Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Patricia Zengerle and Robert Birsel; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and William Mallard)


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    South Africa had a chance at a peaceful solution because we did not have two opposing religious fundamentalists in the ring. the mess in this region will never end.

  • ilike homophones says:

    i see strong elements of a gender-based-violence in this attack …. … … DM, why don’t you send your female journalists in? …. …. …. for protection they can take XR with them … …. …

  • Bill Gild says:

    All that is needed now is for the ANC, SACP, BDS and other SA- based losers to unleash their condemnation of Israel.

    • Mark Cowell says:

      It’s happened. ANC publicly declared on the side of terrorists in Russia and now Palestine. The ANC sponsored SA slide to oblivion has just gained a little more momentum

      • Bill Gild says:

        Great news! But we have yet to hear from BDS and pro-palestinian student organizations at UCT and Wits – why are they being so coy?

  • Pet Bug says:

    For thousands of years people that lost their states in wars or other maneuvering had to revert to plan B, C, D, etc..
    They had to accept they had a bad hand – have lost, and moved on, or assimilated or lived under the new regime.
    Ask the Carthesians, the Mexicans, the Troyians, Armenians, Kurds.
    Same old same old.

    Unfortunately for the Palestinians this is their lot too. For a whole lot of unfair and foreign decisions.
    But there you have it. This adventure will cost them dearly.

    My mother was born in Königsberg, and the state: Preußen, Prussia.
    The state of Prussia was desolved by the Allies in 1946; (my grandfather spent an extra 2,5 years in a Russian prisoner of war gulag – as Preußen no longer existed). Just because.
    Königsberg is now Kaliningrad, in Russia.
    It’s was called Königsberg because for over 400 years in a 800 year history, the kings of the area became kings of Prussia. They had every right to be there.

    So, things change; at some point one must accept one’s lot.
    My mother’s family were refugees twice over: first Prussia to East Germany and again escaping this socialist nirvana via jumping out of train windows into West German wheat fields.
    They moved on, ending up in SA.

    My idea would be to forcibly remove all Jewish settlers in the West Bank, accept the 1967 border, create a Palestinian state there; and revoke all Arab Israeli citizenship.
    And hand the Gaza Strip to Egypt.
    Oil and water do not mix. It’s fine.
    But one must accept it.

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