Israel says Hamas declares war, commits ‘grave mistake’
Barrage of rockets launched into Israel from Gaza
Netanyahu calls emergency meeting of Israeli security officials
Reports of gunbattles in towns in southern Israel
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years on Saturday in a surprise assault that combined gunmen crossing into several Israeli towns with a heavy barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
As warning sirens wailed across southern and central Israel, including in Jerusalem, Israel’s military said it was on a war footing and the defence minister said the Iran-backed Hamas had made a “grave mistake” by declaring war on Israel.
The Israeli military said it had launched air strikes into Gaza, where witnesses reported hearing heavy explosions.
The attack marked an unprecedented infiltration by an unknown number of Hamas gunmen into Israel from Gaza, and one of the most serious escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years. At least two Israelis were killed, Israel public broadcaster Kan reported. Medical officials said there were dozens of wounded.
“This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” he said, adding that 5,000 rockets had been launched.
The last major flare-up between Israel and Hamas was a 10-day war in 2021.