Israel Latest: Netanyahu Says Nation at War, Gaza Groups Attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel “at war” after Gaza Strip militants fired over 2,000 missiles and infiltrated southern parts of the country in a surprise attack on Saturday.

(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel “at war” after Gaza Strip militants fired over 2,000 missiles and infiltrated southern parts of the country in a surprise attack on Saturday. 

“The enemy will pay a price that he has not seen before. We are at war and we will win it,” Netanyahu said in a video address. 

Israel declared a rare state of alert for war after the incursions. It’s reinforcing its south and announced an extensive mobilization of reserves for what’s been dubbed “Operation Swords of Iron,” sending a dozen warplanes to strike back within the strip.

Hamas, which rules Gaza and is classified as a terrorist organization by the US, said the incursion was the start of a major operation. Gunfights broke out between Israeli troops and Gaza infiltrators, some of whom arrived on motorcycles and para-gliders. Local media reported 22 deaths. 

Israel Calls State of Alert for War as Gaza Rockets Strike 

All times Israel.

Israel Scrambles ‘Dozens’ of Jets (12:20 p.m.)

Israel’s defense forces are reinforcing the south and the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip with “several operational forces,” said IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari. 

Dozens of IDF fighter jets struck Hamas targets, he said. Special forces are among those involved in an “extensive” mobilization of reserves.  

Global Reaction Pours In, Restraint Urged (12 p.m.)

Responses from governments around the world poured in on Saturday. Poland’s foreign minister condemned “indiscriminate violence and ruthless targeting of civilians,” which UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called “horrific.” Egypt’s foreign ministry warned of the dangers of escalation and called for maximum restraint, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged both sides to “avoid impulsive steps that could escalate tensions.”

Israel ‘At War’ With Militants, Netanyahu Says in Video Message (11:40 a.m.)

Israel is “at war. Not an operation, not a round – war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement in Hebrew after what he termed a “lethal, surprise offensive” by Hamas early Saturday. 

Netanyahu said he’d issued guidance to the heads of Israel’s security establishment to “cleanse all settlements of the terrorists who have infiltrated them.” Israel’s reserves will be mobilized to “fight back at a scope and power that the enemy has not met,” he added.  

Israel Names Gaza Operation ‘Swords of Iron’ (11 a.m.)

Israel’s defense forces called the new Gaza military operation “Swords of Iron” and said that 2,200 missiles had been launched from Gaza since early morning. 

Troops are battling armed infiltrators in 10 locations in the south of Israel, the IDF said — lower than the 21 locations cited earlier by the chief of police.  

Russia Says It’s in Contact With Both Sides (10:30 a.m.)

Russia is in contact with Israel and Palestine as well as Arab countries, Interfax reported, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Moscow called for restraint and promised to “find out all the circumstances, sort everything out.” 

“It is such an unexpected aggravation. If we had expected it, we would not have allowed it,” Bogdanov said.  

Chief of Police Says Israel in State of War (10:05 a.m.)

“We are in a state of war following a massive attack from Gaza on the south of Israel,” Israel’s police chief, Yaakov Shabtai, said in a statement, referring to the infiltrations. “There are currently 21 locations where special police forces are operating. The entire south of Israel has been sealed off.”

Mayor Says Four People Killed in Southern Town (9:45 a.m.)

At least four people are dead and several more wounded from rocket hits on Kuseife about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the Gaza Strip, according to the Bedouin town’s mayor, Abd al-Aziz Nassara. He spoke to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster.

Israel Calls State of Alert for War as Gaza Rockets Strike (8:50 a.m.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an urgent meeting of security officials and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved a wide call-up of reserves. 

The violence erupted a day after Hamas said that the “people had to draw a line to end the occupation” and added that Israel continued to commit crimes across Palestinian land, and especially on the holy site of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.

Similar tension around the Al-Aqsa mosque started a round of confrontations earlier this year.

In a pre-recorded speech, Hamas militant leader Mohamed Deif said: “We have decided to put an end to all of this, with the help of God, so that the enemy understands that the time of recklessness without accountability is over. We declare Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, and the first strike has surpassed 5,000 missiles and shells in the first 20 minutes.”

–With assistance from Ethan Bronner, Galit Altstein, Gwen Ackerman and Fadwa Hodali.

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