Israel Latest: PM Says Nation Is at War After Deadly Incursion

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel “at war” after Gaza Strip militants fired over 2,000 missiles and infiltrated southern parts of the country, killing an estimated 40 Israelis, in a surprise attack early 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, killing an estimated 40 Israelis, in a surprise attack early 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.  

Hundreds were injured and defense forces were unable to immediately access some communities overrun by Hamas. Israel said it was reinforcing “all arenas” with an extensive mobilization of reserves for what’s been dubbed “Operation Swords of Iron.” Israel sent a dozen or more warplanes to strike back within the strip. 

Hamas, which rules Gaza and is classified as a terrorist organization by the US, called the incursion was the start of a major operation. It comes almost 50 years to the day from the Yom Kippur war waged by Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries against Israel. 

All times Israel.

Red Cross Decries Civilian Hostage-Taking (4:10 p.m.)

A top Red Cross official, responding to images on social media, said the agency was “aware of reports relating to people being captured or detained” in Israel by armed Hamas insurgents in Saturday’s surprise attack. 

“Carrying out, or threatening to carry out, an act of hostage-taking is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Fabrizio Carboni, International Committee of the Red Cross regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in a release. “The violence directed against civilians is appalling and cannot be justified.” 

Saudi Arabia Call for Halt to Escalation (4 p.m.)

Saudi Arabia called for an end to hostilities, while saying the situation had been inflamed by Israel depriving Palestinians of their rights. 

“The Kingdom recalls its repeated warnings of the dangers of the explosion of the situation as a result of the continuation of the occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights, and the repetition of systematic provocations against its sanctities,” the Saudi government said in a statement. 

The international community needs to “activate a credible peace process leading to the two-state solution,” according to the Kingdom’s statement.  

Netanyahu Says Israel Will Ensure Nobody ‘Mistakenly’ Joins War (4 p.m.)

In updated comments, Israel’s PM said that among the nation’s immediate objectives was to “reinforce other fronts so that nobody should mistakenly join this war.” 

His comments come as a top Iranian military official expressed support for Saturday’s Hamas incursions, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Iranian state TV showed hours of live broadcasts from the Gaza Strip and Israeli settlements. 

Death Toll Rises to 40 in Israel, Scores Reported Killed in Gaza (4 p.m.)

Some 40 Israelis were killed in Saturday’s Hamas incursion, according to the government-mandated aid agency Magen David Adom, up from an earlier estimate of 22. 

There’s been no official death toll from reprisal strikes in Gaza, but Palestinian television is reporting at least 160 dead and over 1,000 injured.  

EU’s Borrell Speaks to Arab League, Others (3:10 p.m.)

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said he spoke with counterparts in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Arab League on the “urgent need for cessation of hostilities” and full respect for humanitarian law. 

UN Envoy Urges All Sides to ‘Pull Back From the Brink’(3:10 p.m.)

“I am deeply concerned for the well-being of all civilians,” said Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who said he was in close contact with all sides. 

“This is a dangerous precipice and I appeal to all to pull back from the brink.”  

Russia Calls for Immediate Ceasefire (3 p.m.)

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said Moscow urges both sides to establish “a negotiation process aimed at establishing a comprehensive, lasting and long-awaited peace in the Middle East.” 

“We regard the current large-scale escalation of the situation as another extremely dangerous manifestation of a vicious circle of violence,” Zakharova said in a statement. 

Netanyahu Scraps Planned Visit to Czech Republic (2:15 p.m.)

The Israeli leader has canceled a planned visit to Prague on Monday. Czech President Petr Pavel called Saturday’s Hamas attacks a “deplorable terrorist act” that will “block any efforts for a peaceful solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for a long time.” 

US Condemns Hamas ‘Terrorism’ Against Civilians (2:10 p.m.) 

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has spoken to his Israeli counterpart, said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. 

The US “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians,” Watson said. “There is never any justification for terrorism.”  

Hezbollah Says Attack Should Send ‘Message’ About Israeli Ties (2 p.m.)

The Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah called the Hamas operation a message to Arab countries against normalizing ties with Israel. Armed resistance was the only way to confront Israeli “aggression,” Hezbollah said in a statement reported by the Times of Israel.  

Hezbollah said it was in direct contact with Hamas leadership in Gaza and beyond. 

Israeli Jets Strike Hard in Gaza Strip (1:52 p.m.)

Dozens of Israeli fighter jets struck 17 military compounds and four operational command centers belonging to Hamas in the past few hours, Israel’s defense forces said.  

Oil Analyst Cites Dangers of a Wider Conflict (1:45 p.m.)

The oil market is wary of potential involvement by Iran in Saturday’s Hamas attack and the bigger risk of a “proxy war” becoming a direct Israel/Iran conflict, said veteran oil consultant Gary Ross at Black Gold Investors. 

Turkey’s Erdogan Urges De-Escalation (1:30 p.m.)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would continue to oppose the occupation of the Al Aqsa mosque by Israel, which has become a flashpoint for Israelis and Palestinians.

Crowds of Israeli settlers have visited the mosque in East Jerusalem recently in what’s been seen as a provocation to Palestinian worshippers. Seen as one of the few Muslim leaders still championing the Palestinian cause, Erdogan called the eight-century structure one of the holiest places of worship for Muslims. 

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.

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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