The ruling Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land and sea, catching the country off guard on a major holiday.
Israel’s national rescue service said at least 40 people have been killed and hundreds wounded, making it the deadliest attack in Israel in years. At least 561 wounded people were being treated in Israeli hospitals, including at least 77 who were in critical condition, according to AP sources.
“We are at war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address, declaring a mass army mobilization. “Not an ‘operation,’ not a ‘round,’ but at war.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted Hamas to launch the attacks, which would have likely required months of planning.
Western nations condemned the incursion and reiterated their support for Israel, while others called for restraint on both sides.
Saudi Arabia released a statement calling on both sides to exercise restraint. The kingdom said it had repeatedly warned about “ the dangers of the situation exploding as a result of the continued occupation (and) the Palestinian people being deprived of their legitimate rights.”