Hamas launched a surprise combined-arms attack on Israel on Saturday morning, dispatching kill and kidnap squads on powered paragliders in the air, through the Gaza-Israel barrier on land, and via the sea.
The attack was accompanied by a massive wave of rocket attacks on southern and central Israel, with some 2,500 projectiles fired at the time of this writing.
Israel Defense Forces international spokesperson Lt. Col Richard Hecht said the attack began at 6:30 a.m. and confirmed that Hamas’s attack squads infiltrated from multiple locations.
Terrified residents of the south pleaded for help as Hamas terrorists attacked both civilian and military targets.
The IDF Southern Command mobilized Israeli forces to repel the invaders. The military described some 10 infiltration zones where battles were underway with Hamas terrorists, including in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Kibbutz Magen, the Re’im military camp, which houses the headquarters of the IDF’s Gaza Division, the city of Sderot, Kibbutz Zikim, Kibbutz Be’eri and the Erez Crossing to the northern Gaza Strip.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the mobilization of thousands of reservists, and the IDF declared a “special situation” in the area spanning 80 kilometers around Gaza.
“We’re looking at all sectors, also with our eyes on the north, and Judea and Samaria. We listened carefully to [Hamas ‘military’ commander] Mohammed Deif,” said Hecht.
The Gaza Division has divided its fighters into sectors and mobilized senior commanders to the field to help deal with the attack.
Hecht said that the military is “preparing a response” but did not go into details, as IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi convened General Staff meetings and with the Security Cabinet due to meet in the afternoon.
The Israel Air Force began strikes on targets in Gaza.
Hecht said that despite the severity of the attack, the IDF is responding in a “composed manner,” with the Gaza Division fighting in open areas and mobilizing growing numbers of forces to deal with the attack cells from Gaza.
It was too soon to analyze the failures that enabled the infiltrations as the IDF deals with defensive operations and plans its offensive, military officials appeared to indicate.
One reason that Hamas attacked on such a scale now could be its desire to create a unity of arenas between Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which has experienced soaring tensions, and to boost its takeover efforts in the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli defense establishment will also be looking for signs of any coordinated attack from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In a statement, Gallant appeared to deliver an early indication of Israel’s response, stating in remarks echoing those of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Hamas has made a grave mistake this morning and launched a war against the State of Israel. IDF troops are fighting against the enemy at every location. I call on all of Israel’s citizens to follow security instructions. The State of Israel will win this war.”