In the early hours of Saturday, October 7, fighters from the paramilitary wing of political party Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, launched a surprise rocket and gun attack on Israel, “Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge,” taking dozens of civilians, including women and children, hostage. Israel responded with airstrikes and a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, banning the entry of food, water, and fuel to the Hamas-operated area where 2.3 million people live.
As of October 11, over 1,200 people in Israel and 1,100 people in Gaza have been killed in the conflict thus far.
Regional news sources report on the rapidly developing situation:
Al-Ahram writes on the Israeli reaction to the unexpected attack: “Israel reeled from the shock of the unprecedented dawn attack due to its sheer audacity, scale, and the number of human and military losses it inflicted. It was also stunned by the glaring failure at all levels of Israeli intelligence, which had no indication of an impending operation in which thousands of fighters would take part and that had clearly required months of planning and preparation.”
The Jerusalem Post cited former Israeli President spokesperson Eylon Levy: “It's no exaggeration to say yesterday was the darkest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust.” Sources indicate that Saturday, October 7, 2023 marked the most Jews killed in a single day since the Holocaust.
On the day of the attack, The Jerusalem Post also reports, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a statement “to the residents of Gaza: get out of there now, because we will act everywhere and with all the strength.” He added that the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) retaliation to the attacks would “cripple them to the point of destruction.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke on Monday of his order to instate a complete siege of Gaza. The Times of Israel quotes Gallant: “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.” Further, he stated that “we are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”
Reported by Arab News, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the attack, describing the Hamas operation as “an act of sheer evil.” Biden further reiterated the United States’ commitment to assisting Israel, saying that “we stand with Israel and we will make sure it has what it needs.”
According to Anadolu Agency, Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of the Hamas political bureau, gave a statement on the attack, defending the operation as a response to Israeli aggression which “reached its peak during the past days, as thousands of settlers desecrated the Al-Aqsa.” He described the operation as “a heroic epic for the sake of Al-Aqsa Mosque, our sanctities, and our prisoners.”
In televised remarks on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, known traditionally for his rhetorical support of the Palestinian cause, criticized both parties, as reported by Al-Arabiya. In the remarks, Erdogan said that “we ask Israel to stop its bombardment of Palestinian territory and Palestinians to stop their harassment of Israeli civilian settlements.”
Responding to allegations that Iran was behind Saturday’s attack, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that “those who say Palestinians’ work is caused by non-Palestinians have not known the Palestinian nation, they have underestimated the Palestinian nation.” Khamenei continued: “The cause of this destructive storm was the continuous brutality and ferocity of the fake usurper regime against the Palestinian nation,” quoted by Tehran Times.
In a departure from the views expressed by those in Israel’s ruling government, Ofer Cassif, a member of the Knesset for the Hadash coalition, spoke to Al-Jazeera about how “he warned the situation would ‘erupt’ if the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not change its policies towards Palestinians.” In Cassif’s words: “We must analyse those terrible incidents [the attacks] in the right context - and that is the ongoing occupation.”