Hamas terrorists crossed Israel’s border from the Gaza Strip (CIA Map) by land (including tunnels), sea, and air (hang gliders) to conduct surprise multipronged attacks against military and civilian targets in central and southern Israel early on Saturday, 7 October 9 (about 0630 Israeli time).
Hamas Attack on Israel
Sequence of Attack. The complex attack, named ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ by Hamas, began with a massive rocket, missile, and mortar barrage – thousands of launches. This was followed by a denial-of-service attacks (Strike Source) in Israel. Hamas then infiltrated across the border into Israel by air, sea, and land. Hang gliders, small boats, tunnels, and trucks were used. The rocket attacks continued throughout the day. The terrorist group also used drones to attack Israeli targets.
Extent of Attack. Hamas, numbering about 1,000, entered about 22 Israeli towns located along the border, taking temporary control of some of those communities. By Sunday most of these areas have been retaken by Israeli forces. Israeli casualties are steep, with hundreds dead and over 1,000 wounded. By Sunday morning the estimates of Israeli dead approached 600. As many as 260 may have been killed at a ‘Musical Festival for Peace’ (The Washington Post, Oct 8, 2023) that was held near the Gaza border in Southern Israel; and several hostages taken to Gaza.
Rockets. Thousands of rockets and mortar rounds were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel attacking military and civilian targets. Hamas claims to have launched over 5,000 munitions into Israel. It is reported that the Iron Dome missile defense system has been effective but perhaps not able to handle the volume of rocket and mortar attacks in a concentrated time frame. Apparently, Hamas has been able to effectively use drones against Israeli tanks.
Hostages. Civilians and military members, estimated to be over one hundred, have been taken hostage and are now in the Gaza Strip (CIA Factbook). Many of the hostages are women and children. Among the hostages are German, UK, American, and Russian citizens. According to a Palestinian spokesman one of the goals of the Hamas operation in Israel was to take hostages. The rationale was to exchange the Israeli hostages for Palestinians in Israeli prisons and to deter Israeli ground operations in the Gaza Strip. The IDF says it has established a headquarters to focus on putting together accurate information on the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It has appointed Brigadier General Gal Hirsch to oversee the missing persons file. Israel has requested assistance from Egypt to help negotiate the release of the hostages.
Ongoing Fighting. The battles on Israeli territory in communities along the border of Gaza continued on Sunday. (map Twitter) Israeli residents remain in shelters in many communities waiting on the arrival of Israeli forces.
Assistance to Hamas. Various news reports indicate that Iran and Hezbollah provided significant assistance to Hamas in the form of advice, intelligence, planning, and support. (Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2023) (subscription)
Intelligence Failure. Apparently, this massive attack by Hamas was not expected by the Israelis and some national security observers are calling it an intelligence failure. Just last week Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that “The Middle East Region is quieter today than it has been in two decades”. (The Atlantic, Oct 7, 2023) The attack was launched on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 War in which Arab states attacked Israel on Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. At the time of this current attack the Israelis were celebrating Simchat Torah, coming at the end of the weeklong Sukkot Festival. The IDF over the past few years have repositioned IDF battalions from the border along the Gaza Strip to the ‘territories’ – protecting settlers in the West Bank. (CIA Map) Instead, it relied on ‘hi-tech’ monitoring of the Gaza Strip border with sensors, cameras, and fencing.
Israeli Actions and Retaliation. Israel has declared war on Hamas and has called up many of the reserve Israeli Defense Forces. At 1200 noon (Israel time) on Saturday, October 7th it launched operation “Swords of Iron” (IDF, icon). Aerial, land, and sea attacks by Israel commenced against military targets in the Gaza Strip. There are reports that Israel has closed the border crossings with Jordan. Schools in many parts of Israel (if not all) have been temporarily closed. Israeli residents in areas along the Gaza Strip border area are being evacuated. The country is currently under a curfew. Some flights into and out of Israel have been cancelled. Ben Gurion International Airport (FlightAware map) is experiencing flight cancellations and delays.
Announcements by Israeli Government. The Security Cabinet announced that the supply of fuel, electricity, and other goods to the Gaza Strip will be stopped. Israel has interrupted electrical service to the Gaza Strip. About 63% of the electricity for the Gaza Strip comes from Israel, 14% from Egypt, and 23% is self-generated (Twitter). On Saturday night Israel announced the Declaration of War. The State Security Cabinet of Israel approved and ratified the Declaration of War (Article 40 Aleph) against Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This is the first time since the 1973 Yon Kipper War that Israel has declared war.
Attacks on Gaza. The Israelis will likely attempt to completely destruct the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and other militant Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip. Israel has provided civilians in Gaza with very specific evacuation instructions (Twitter) – telling them to move deeper into the Gaza Strip in designated areas due to ongoing and future military operations.
Israelis Strike Terrorist Targets. The IDF announced (Oct 8) that it had struck ten Hamas terrorist organization targets. These targets were located in multi-story buildings in the Gaza Strip. In addition, two banks used by Hamas were hit – the Islamic National Bank and the First Bank. Other targets that stored weapons and military equipment were also struck in Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post (Oct 8) the IDF has conducted 500 airstrikes (Twitter) in the Gaza Strip by mid-day Sunday.
IDF Spokesperson Briefing. A member of the Israeli Defense Forces presented a 11-minute briefing (IDF Twitter) on the evening of 11 Oct 2023 on the situation. He states that hundreds of Hamas terrorists crossed over into Israel, executed civilians, and took Israelis captive. These captives are now held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
Reserve Callup. Reservists are being mobilized and military units are being sent to the border with the Gaza Strip. Israelis who are in reserve military status living overseas are receiving phone calls calling them up for service.
International Reaction. Most nations are condemning the Hamas assault on Israel. Predictably, some countries are applauding the attack – Iran, of course, being one of them as well as several other Arab nations. National security observers are calling for the reoccupation of the Gaza strip (Middle East Forum) and disarming of Hamas. In Alexandria, Egypt, a policeman opened fire on a tourist group. Two Israelis and one Egyptian were killed.
U.S. Reaction. The U.S. Department of State has condemned (DoS) “. . . the appalling attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israel . . .” President Joe Biden issued a statement (White House, Oct 7, 2023) condemning the terrorist attacks. The U.S. has announced a security alert (DoS, Oct 7, 2023) for Israel and designated the Gaza Strip as a ‘Do Not Travel‘ area. (DoS Map) The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem says that all diplomatic and military personnel in Israel are safe and accounted for. DoS has issued a ‘shelter in place’ advisory for diplomatic staff and American nationals.
And Hezbollah? There are concerns that Israel may soon be involved in hostilities along its northern border with Lebanon. Hezbollah announced that it has fired mortars into the Mount Dov (Google Maps) area of Israel from southern Lebanon. This location has a long-range radar installation used to detect and track missiles and rockets launched from Lebanon and Syria. The Israelis have responded with artillery fire and airstrikes against Hezbollah targets. Patriot missile systems (NSI) have been used to intercept incoming missiles from Lebanon. Some press reports say that several IDF bases have been hit with mortar and missile attacks coming from southern Lebanon. Iran is a strong supporter of Hezbollah and will likely provide assistance to the group in its operations against Israel. Israel has begun preparations in the event evacuations from areas near the Lebanon border are required. Israeli military units are reinforcing its northern border area. Israeli tanks, including the Merkava Mark III (Wikipedia) and IV as well as self-propelled artillery, are deploying to the northern border area.
And the Peace Talks? The White House had been working on an Israel-Saudi deal – acting as a third-party peace broker. With this ongoing conflict this effort will likely come to a screeching halt. There is the likelihood that Iran and Hamas saw the ongoing peace talks as a threat – as it was an attempt to isolate them in the international community. Part of the deal had Israel making concessions to the Palestinian Authority – an enemy of Hamas. So, Hamas striking Israel at this time could be a desire to disrupt the peace talks deal. There is also the likelihood that Russia has encouraged Hamas; certainly, the conflict in Israel-Gaza Strip will divert attention away from the Ukraine conflict. See “In Brief: The U.S.-Saudi-Israeli Deal”, War on the Rocks, October 4, 2023.
Hamas Rule in Gaza. The origins of this terrorist group, the Islamic Resistance Movement, date back to 1987. It is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2007 it took power in the Gaza Strip – a small area of land with a population of about two million.
History of the Gaza Strip. This land area has been inhabited since the 15th century B.C and has been dominated by many different peoples and empires throughout it history. It was part of the Ottoman Empire from the 16th century until the end of World War I. It became part of the British Mandate of Palestine after World War I. Egypt began administering the Gaza Strip following the 1948 Arab Israeli War. During the Six-Day war in 1967 it was captured by Israel. In the late 1990s Israel transferred many of the Palestinian-populated areas to the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA). In 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip.
Gaza Strip – CIA Fact Book
Israel Palestine Interactive Map – With Battle Event Notations
Map – GeoConfirmed Israel
IDF Real Time Operational Updates
U.N. Relief and Works Agency (Palestine)
IDF Twitter Feeds
@IDF and @IAFsite