Battles continue against terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza in the south • Hamas claims to be holding 163 Israelis hostage in Gaza • IDF launches “Operation Swords of Iron.”
(JNS) — Hamas killed more than 250 Israelis on Saturday as it launched a massive offensive from the Gaza Strip, including firing more than 3,000 rockets and sending dozens of Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate the Jewish state.
Around 5:30 p.m., 11 hours into the terrorist attacks, there were still exchanges of fire at 22 locations inside Israel.
Just after 8 p.m., Hamas launched a massive barrage of rockets toward central Israel, with direct hits reported in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam and Givatayim.
Active combat continued between Israeli security forces and Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
There were also reports of a hostage situation in Ofakim, located some 12 miles from the Gaza border.
Hamas claimed to be holding 163 Israelis hostage in Gaza.
More than 1,500 Israelis were evacuated to hospitals across the country, the largest number to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva and many to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
People were asked to donate blood across Israel. Because of the overwhelming response, only those with type O universal donor blood were asked to come.
‘We are at war’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the Security Cabinet at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
“Since this morning, the State of Israel has been at war. Our first objective is to clear out the hostile forces that infiltrated our territory and restore the security and quiet to the communities that have been attacked,” said Netanyahu at the start of the meeting.
“The second objective, at the same time, is to exact an immense price from the enemy, within the Gaza Strip as well. The third objective is to reinforce other fronts so that nobody should mistakenly join this war.
“We are at war. In war, one needs to be level-headed. I call on all citizens of Israel to unite in order to achieve our highest goal—victory in the war,” added the premier.
In response, the Israel Air Force launched “Operation Swords of Iron,” initially striking 17 Hamas “military” compounds and four operational headquarters in Gaza.
The IDF was ordered to a “state of war readiness” and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant authorized the call-up of reserve troops.
He also announced a “special security situation” within 80 kilometers of the Gaza Strip, enabling the IDF to close relevant sites and impose safety restrictions on the population.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog denounced on Saturday the “cold-blooded” killings of Israelis and called on the international community to act.
“Today, we saw the true face of Hamas. A terrorist army whose only goal is the cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women, and children,” said Herzog.
“Supported and directed by their proxy commanders in Iran, they carried out an unprovoked, heinous attack against the Jewish state on a Jewish holy day [Simchat Torah]. Innocent civilians were massacred and wounded, and many are still under attack.
“The State of Israel will take all measures necessary to eliminate this clear and immediate danger to our citizens. Israel will overcome in the face of all challenges. I call upon the family of nations: This war waged against us marks a line in the sand. Now is the time to hear clear, unequivocal condemnation of Hamas, its allies, and its backers in Iran. Now is the time to stand firm with Israel in support of its just and moral battle in the face of an abhorrent enemy,” said the president.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid on Saturday gave full support to the government to strike hard at Hamas.
“At times like these, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel. We will give full backing to the security forces for a harsh response against terrorism and its proxies,” said Lapid.
“The whole world must stand with Israel as we defend ourselves from terror,” said Lapid. “We must mobilize the international community against [Palestinian] terror.”
The United States condemned Hamas’s multi-pronged assault.
“Sickened by the images coming out of southern Israel of dead and wounded civilians at the hands of terrorists from Gaza. The United States stands with Israel,” said acting U.S. Ambassador in Jerusalem Stephanie Hallett.
“I condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. I am in contact with Israeli officials, and fully support Israel’s right to defend itself from such terrorist acts,” she said.
Netanyahu spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden later in the afternoon and made it clear that a “forceful, prolonged campaign” is necessary.