Israel declared a state of war
Israeli security officers take shelter amid shelling of Ashkelon city on October 7. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli army said that the country was in a state of war, vowing to force the opponent to “pay an unprecedented price.”

“We are in a state of war, not a single military operation, but a war. I have ordered the mobilization of reserve forces, and we will respond at an unprecedented level. The enemy will have to pay an unprecedented price,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today.

Israeli Defense Minister spokesman Daniel Hagari said on the same day that the country’s army had declared a state of war. “We are in a war. More than 2,000 rockets have been targeted in Israel; terrorists have also infiltrated and are still present on the country’s territory. The army is mobilizing many soldiers and focusing on fighting on the Gaza border,” he said.

Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht said that Hamas forces “conducted a coordinated raid” by land, paragliding, air and sea. He confirmed that Israeli soldiers were injured but did not give detailed numbers and refused to comment on information that Hamas forces captured many Israeli citizens.

The statements were made a few hours after Mohammad Deif, a senior commander of the armed group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip, announced the launch of a campaign against Israel and called on Palestinians to join the war. “This is the beginning of the greatest battle to end the occupation,” he said, adding that “5,000 rocket artillery shells” were launched into Israeli territory.

This is an unprecedented intrusion into Israeli territory and is also one of the most serious escalations of tension in the region for many years. The most intense fighting between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip occurred in mid-2021.

Israeli media said that many Hamas gunmen entered cities and towns in the country’s south and opened fire indiscriminately. Images on social networks show Hamas forces landing by parachute or moving in pickup trucks, while at least one Israeli Merkava Mark IV main tank was shot on fire.

In Arabic, Hamas stands for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, which means Islamic Resistance Movement. The group was formed in 1987 after the first Palestinian anti-Israel uprising (intifada) broke out against the Israeli army’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas aims to establish a Palestinian Islamic state in the territory planned before 1948. To achieve that goal, this movement determines that the only path is to fight through violence; Hamas rejects all peaceful solutions and does not recognize the state of Israel.

Israel declared a state of war

The current territory of Israel – Palestine (left) was proposed by the United Nations in 1947. Graphic: Viet Chung

Hamas initially carried out both an armed struggle against Israel and a social welfare program for Palestinians. But since 2005, when Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, Hamas began participating in politics in Palestine. It won elections in 2006 before consolidating power in Gaza the following year by ousting President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

Since then, Gaza militants have fought several wars with Israel, which along with Egypt, maintains a siege on the Gaza Strip to isolate Hamas and apply pressure to stop the attacks.