Israel and Hamas seem to be on the brink of another conflict after a surprise attack on Saturday involving aerial, sea and ground operations, initiated by the Palestinian group from the Gaza Strip. Israel responded with a heavy bombardment of the blockaded coastal enclave.
Here is what to know:
What happened and when?
The Palestinian armed group Hamas has launched “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” against Israel in the most serious escalation since Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war in 2021.
Hamas said it had fired 5,000 rockets, while Israel confirmed that the group’s fighters had entered its territory.
Daniel Hagari, an Israeli army spokesman, said that the group attacked from land, sea and air.
The first round of rockets was fired at 6:30am local time (03:30 GMT).
The Israeli army also said it launched “Operation Iron Swords” against the Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.
The early-morning attacks occurred on Simchat Torah, a holiday which falls towards the conclusion of the weeklong Jewish festival known as Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.
Where did the attacks take place?
The rockets were fired as far north as Tel Aviv. Hamas also sent fighters into southern Israel.
Israeli media said that gunmen had opened fire on passers-by in the town of Sderot, and footage circulating on social media appeared to show clashes in city streets as well as gunmen in jeeps roaming the countryside. One report claimed Hamas fighters had taken control of multiple Israeli civilian population centres, where residents were begging for help from their government.
The Israeli army says dozens of fighter jets were carrying out attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Currently, the gun battles are 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.
How many casualties in Israel and Palestine?
Medical sources in Gaza said at least 160 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 wounded.
Israeli health officials said at least 40 Israelis have been killed and 750 wounded in Hamas attacks.
Why did Hamas attack Israel?
Hamas spokesperson Khaled Qadomi has told Al Jazeera that the group’s military operation is in response to all the atrocities the Palestinians have 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,” he said.
“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.
Hamas called on “the resistance fighters in the West Bank” as well as “our Arab and Islamic nations” to join the battle, in a statement posted on Telegram.
What is the Israeli government saying?
The Israeli army warned Israelis who live near Gaza to stay in their homes or head to shelters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country is in a war it “will win”.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel “will win this war.” Hamas, he said, had made a “grave mistake this morning and launched a war against the State of Israel”.
What is the latest on the ground?
Israeli media reported gunbattles between bands of Palestinian fighters and security forces in towns in southern Israel. Israel’s police chief said there were “21 active scenes” in southern Israel
Al Jazeera’s Walid al-Omari, bureau chief in Ramallah, says Israeli forces surrounded a house in the Ofakim settlement and negotiations are under way with Palestinian fighters who are allegedly holding hostages.
The Israeli Ministry of Education says all kindergartens and schools will remain closed across the country on Sunday, expanding a previously announced decision.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza has issued a call for blood donations at hospitals in the besieged enclave.
What are the international reactions so far?
The Czech government has condemned Hamas for launching “terrorist attacks” on Prague’s traditional ally Israel.
The European Union’s foreign chief, Josep Borrell, expressed solidarity with Israel.
The French foreign ministry said France condemned the “terrorist attacks under way against Israel and its population” and that France expressed its full solidarity with Israel.
The UK “unequivocally condemns” a surprise attack by Palestinian group Hamas on Israel on Saturday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
Egypt warned of “grave consequences” from an escalation in a statement from the foreign ministry carried by the state news agency on Saturday. It called for “exercising maximum restraint and avoiding exposing civilians to further danger”.
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.”