Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis have been killed as the two countries resume hostilities after a surprise attack on Israel by Hamas on Saturday morning, involving aerial, sea and ground operations. Israel responded with a heavy bombardment of the blockaded coastal enclave.
The UK Guardian reported late last night that 250 Israelis had been killed while some 1,800 of them were injured. Retaliatory airstrikes by Israel, in turn, have killed more 230 Palestinians and wounding over 1,650, according to the London-based newspaper.
The surprise operation from Gaza came on the heels of the killing of four Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, widespread Israeli settler attacks, especially in Huwara, near Nablus and increased tensions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement running the besieged enclave, said it was surprised that large-scale operation was in response to the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and increased settler violence.
The first round of rockets was fired at 6:30am, local time (03:30 GMT).
Hamas said it captured a ‘huge number of Israeli soldiers.’
A senior Hamas leader said the group had captured enough Israeli soldiers during an unprecedented attack against Israel to make Israeli authorities free all Palestinian prisoners in its jails.
“We managed to kill and capture many Israeli soldiers. The fighting is still on,” Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau, told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
“The freedom of our detainees in Israeli prisons is looming large. What we have in our hands will release all our prisoners. The longer fighting continues, the higher the number of prisoners will become,” added Al-Arouri, who said senior officers were among those captured, but did not provide any figures.
The Israeli army acknowledged that soldiers and commanders had been killed and prisoners of war taken, but it did not give any figure.
Hamas said it had fired 5,000 rockets while Israel confirmed that the group’s fighters had entered its territory.
The early morning attacks occurred on Simchat Torah, a holiday that falls towards the conclusion of the weeklong Jewish festival, known as Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said dozens of fighter jets were carrying out attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Its air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip have flattened a tower in the heart of Gaza City.
Israel’s air force noted in a statement that its fighter jets had hit two high-rising buildings in Gaza, alleging that they housed Hamas “military infrastructure.”
As at Saturday evening, the gun battles were taking place in and around the towns of Kfar Aza, Sderot, Sufa, Nahal Oz, Magen, Be’eri and the Re’im military base, the Times of Israel reported.
Abdul Rahman Ab Lihya, a 40-year-old Palestinian construction worker told newsmen that, “It is judgement day, a nightmare. We are all confined to our homes, no one can leave.
“We are close to the fence, a lot of dead bodies scattered around and anyone who goes near there gets shot. I have never seen something like this. My father said it was like the Yom Kippur war in 1973,” he added.
Why did Hamas attack Israel?
Hamas spokesperson, Khaled Qadomi, told Al Jazeera that the group’s military operation was in response to all the atrocities the Palestinians had faced over the decades.
“We want the international community to stop atrocities in Gaza against Palestinian people, our holy sites like Al-Aqsa. All these things are the reason behind starting this battle.
“This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” Mohammed Deif, the Hamas military commander said, adding that 5,000 rockets were launched.
“Everyone who has a gun should take it out. The time has come,” Deif said, according to reports,” he added.
The group called on “the resistance fighters in the West Bank,” as well as “Arab and Islamic nations,” to join the battle, in a statement posted on Telegram.
International communities react
European leaders, including those of the UK and Germany, are all blaming Hamas for the ongoing fight.
The European Union, US, UK and Czech have all expressed solidarity with Israel, with France calling it the “terrorist attacks under way against Israel and its population.”
On its part, a Lebanese group, Hezbollah, issued a statement on Saturday, saying it was closely following the situation in Gaza and was in “direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is set to meet on Sunday in the wake of the continuing Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
UN chief, Antonio Guterres, condemned the attacks and urged “all diplomatic efforts to avoid a wider conflagration,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric noted in a statement.
“The secretary-general is deeply concerned for the civilian population, and urged maximum restraint. Civilians must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law at all times,” Dujarric said.
Diplomatic, security analysts proffer solutions
Dr Babayo Sule, the head of the Department of International Relations, Federal University, Kashere, said the best alternative to the decades-long hostilities between Israel and Palestine was needed for the international community to be sincere as well as demonstrate a genuine commitment toward ending the hostilities.
He noted that the Oslo accord reached in 1991 for the creation of an independent Palestinian should be actualised and put into practice.
“Let’s have the state of Palestine. Once the state of Palestine is declared, alongside that of Israel, then there should be demarcated borders, where if there’s any aggression between the two states, the UN Security Council, and the international community had the right to intervene and fight the aggressor and punish or sanction him accordingly.
“Anything beside that will only deescalate the tension, and Israel will always continue to be aggressive against the Palestrina because the mightness and level of power are not commensurating.”
Comrade Salihu Dantata Mahmoud, the Director of Security Salute Nigeria Initiative, said the resumption of hostilities between Israel and the Hamas must be treated with all seriousness, particularly the United Nations Security Council, which has the sole responsibility of extending the same gesture on Ukraine and the Russian war.
“The world must be treated equally. The United Nations must call Israel to order, being the culprit occupying illegal lands in Gaza, part of Palestinian. Since the reign of Yasser Arafat to Mahmud Abbas and the incumbent Palestinian leadership,the crisis has lingered on which has been allowed to remain.
“In this digital age, the world needs peace rather than crisis, hence the need for super powers like US, UK, France, Germany and others to intervene through the use of NATO to call the bluff of Israel the same way they did in the Ukraine Russia war. The humanitarian crisis as a result of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian is much. It has created a humanitarian crisis for Palestinian. The sovereignty of Palestinian people must be maintained.”