Al-Aqsa Storm: Hamas attack kills over 250 Israelis; Tel Aviv's air strikes martyr 232 Palestinians

Israel's prime minister declares war with Palestine after over 5,000 rockets were launched from Gaza Strip

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Smoke billows over Gaza City on October 7, 2023, following an Israeli air strike. — AFP
Smoke billows over Gaza City on October 7, 2023, following an Israeli air strike. — AFP
  • Gazans headed for shelters after fleeing their homes.
  • Israeli police report "21 active scenes" in southern Israel.
  • Emergency services dispatched to affected areas near Gaza.

The Israeli death toll has risen to 250 as Hamas's "Operation Al-Aqsa Storm" rages on, while at least 232 Palestinians have so far been martyred and 1,610 wounded in the Gaza Strip in Tel Avivi's retaliatory air strikes.

Earlier, quoting Israel's health ministry, N12 News said the ongoing Hamas attack claimed the lives of at least 200 Israelis and left more than 1,100 wounded. 

The latest figures from Israeli media reports suggested that at least 1,452 people sought medical assistance, with 18 in a critical condition. Another 267 people were described as severe.

The Palestinian health ministry said up until 4:20pm there were "232 martyrs and 1,610 wounded with different injuries" in the conflict.

Palestinians across the world and the country are celebrating the highly coordinated assault, which totally blindsided Tel Aviv, proving to be historically successful for the resistance. 

'Israel in shock'

Lior Hayat, the spokesperson of the Israeli foreign ministry, was quoted in the Al Arabiya English report as saying that "Israel was a nation in shock by the murders, the attacks after civilians were targeted in Hamas’ military operation.

Meanwhile, Israel’s army said it was fighting Gaza fighters who entered Israel by land, sea and air using paragliders after a barrage of rockets was fired at Israel from the Palestinian enclave.

"It was a combined ground raid which happened through paragliders, through the sea and through the ground," army spokesman Richard Hecht told reporters.

"Right now we’re fighting. We’re fighting in certain locations around the Gaza Strip... our forces are now fighting on the ground in Israel," he added.

Hecht confirmed there are casualties but would not be drawn on details, nor discuss reports that multiple Israelis had been captured by Palestinian fighters.

Thousands of military reservists are set to be drawn up for Gaza, as well as northern Israel, near foes Lebanon and Syria, and the occupied West Bank.

"We’re looking at all arenas... we understand this is something big," Hecht said.

'Right to defend'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a statement said: "His people have the right to defend themselves against the "terror of settlers and occupation troops".

Abbas said this at an emergency meeting held in Ramallah with a number of top officials from the Palestinian Authority.

Al-Aqsa Storm

Earlier, Hamas commandos attacked southern Israel after firing over 5,000 rockets at the settlers from the Gaza Strip, which was later followed by heavy infiltration of armed freedom fighters into the oppressive Jewish state.

The Al Jazeera’s correspondent said the unprecedented attack has left Israelis in "tremendous shock".

“I spoke by text with an acquaintance in Tel Aviv. She says she was hurrying to get into a bomb shelter. The fact that several villages including some towns were attacked and captured — this is something that has never happened before,” Reynolds said.

"This took a lot of planning, strategising from Hamas," he noted.

Soon after the massive surprise attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war against Palestine saying that Hamas had made a "grave mistake."

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, Reuters reported.

Israel's police chief said there were "21 active scenes" in southern Israel, indicating the extent of the attack.

In Gaza, people rushed to buy supplies in anticipation of days of conflict ahead. Some evacuated their homes and headed for shelters.

Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif announced the start of the operation in a broadcast on Hamas media, calling on Palestinians everywhere to fight.

"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.

Palestinian militants ride an Israeli military vehicle that was seized by gunmen who infiltrated areas of southern Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip October 7, 2023. — Reuters
Palestinian militants ride an Israeli military vehicle that was seized by gunmen who infiltrated areas of southern Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip October 7, 2023. — Reuters

'Israel is at war'

“Our enemy will pay type of a price which it has never known,” Israeli PM Netanyahu said in a video statement, adding that his country is in a “war” that it “will win”.

Speaking to Israel N12 News by phone from a Nir Oz, a kibbutz near Gaza, a woman identified as Dorin said gunmen had infiltrated her house and tried to open the bomb shelter where she was hiding.

"They just came in again, please send help," she said. "There are a lot of homes harmed ... My husband is holding the door closed ... They are firing rounds of bullets."

Israeli Defence Minister Gallant said Hamas had "launched a war against the State of Israel". Israeli "troops are fighting against the enemy at every location," he said.

The Israeli military said its forces were operating inside Gaza but gave no details.

"A number of terrorists have infiltrated into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip," the military said in a statement, adding that residents in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip had been told to stay in their homes.

Israeli media reported that gunmen had opened fire on passers-by in the town of Sderot, in southern Israel, and footage circulating on social media appeared to show clashes in city streets as well as gunmen in jeeps roaming the countryside.

A building is ablaze following rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv, Israel October 7, 2023. — Reuters
A building is ablaze following rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv, Israel October 7, 2023. — Reuters

Israelis taken captive

Hamas media displayed videos of what it said were bodies of Israeli soldiers brought into Gaza by fighters, and armed Palestinians inside Israeli homes and touring an Israeli town in jeeps reportedly been driven into Israel by the attackers.

Palestinian media also reported that a number of Israelis had been taken captive by fighters and Hamas media circulated video footage apparently showing a destroyed Israeli tank.

The Israeli military was aware of reports of captives, a security source said but provided no further details. In a briefing with reporters, an Israeli military spokesman declined to comment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he would meet top security officials in the coming hours and Gallant authorised the call-up of reservists.

In Gaza, the roar of rocket launches could be heard and residents reported armed clashes along the separation fence with Israel, near the southern town of Khan Younis, and said they had seen significant movement of armed fighters.

Israel's ambulance service said teams had been dispatched to areas in southern Israel near Gaza and residents were warned to stay inside.

A group representing military reservists who had planned to refuse to attend training over their objections to the government's plans to overhaul the judiciary called on reservists to report for duty.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group said its fighters were joining Hamas in the attack.

"We are part of this battle, our fighters are side-by-side with their brothers in the Qassam Brigades until victory is achieved," said Islamic Jihad armed wing spokesman Abu Hamza in a post on Telegram.

Palestinians in Gaza expressed disbelief at the infiltration into Israel. "It is like a dream. I still can't believe it," said one Gaza shopkeeper.

The attack came a day after Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war that brought the country to the verge of catastrophic defeat in a surprise attack by Syria and Egypt.