Dozens of Israelis were rescued from where they were being held captive inside the dining hall to a kibbutz, security forces in Israel said. The hostages were held at Kibbutz Be’eri in the southern part of the country. Four terrorists were reported killed in the rescue operation.
The rescue came amid a day of fierce fighting that saw civilian targets, including a hospital, being hit.
Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad, meanwhile, told the BBC that Iran gave support to the Palestinian terror group to launch its surprise multi-front attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel is “at war” after Hamas militants from Gaza fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of fighters into Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip in a surprise Saturday morning attack, during a major Jewish holiday.
Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza killing at least 300 people and wounding 1,700 others, making it the deadliest armed response in years against the Palestinians, according to Israel’s national rescue service.
The response followed Netanyahu’s pledge to inflict an “unprecedented price” against Hamas militants, The Associated Press reports. The Israeli prime minister called for a mass mobilization of army reserves.
Hamas’ surprise attack killed at least 250 people, injured 1,500 others, and its militants went door to door abducting Israeli civilians. The unexpected incursion is also reminiscent of the surprise attack by Egyptian and Syrian forces against Israel 50 years ago almost to the day, igniting the 1973 Yom Kippur War that lasted less than three weeks and ended with Israel’s victory.
The following are some questions surrounding the situation in Israel.
Why was it called the Yom Kippur War?
The latest of the Arab Israeli wars that shaped Arab-Israeli enmity in the region, the Yom Kippur War was ignited on Oct. 6, 1973. On the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, otherwise called the Day of Atonement, Israel was caught off guard by invading forces from Egypt and Syria. The 19-day war that followed has been considered one of the most traumatic events for the Israeli nation that vowed never to be caught off guard again and ended with Israel’s victory against the Arab forces and a subsequent armistice on Oct. 25, 1973.
The war also put into question Israel’s intelligence failure to offset the surprise attack, as well as the weak performance of the Israel Defense Forces during the war’s first few days and mobilized the Israeli people against the Golda Meir government at the time.
Why was Israel once again caught by surprise?
During its 50th anniversary, the Hamas attack raises again questions about Israel’s unpreparedness as it is dealing with domestic political issues once again.
The protest movement that has been mobilized against Netanyahu’s efforts to overhaul the country’s judicial system draws a parallel with Golda Meir’s fledgling government in 1973 and Israel’s government today.
Hamas’ unexpected attack came at a moment of deep division in Israel, as its government pushed through a contentious plan to reduce the power of the country’s courts, sparking a social and political crisis.
The move this summer also struck a nerve with the military, prompting many reservists — the backbone of Israel’s army — to warn they would not come if called up, to protest the changes to the judicial system. An IDF spokesperson said Saturday he did not know of any reservists refusing to be called up in the face of the latest attacks, CNN reports.
What was the U.S. reaction to the Hamas attack?
President Joe Biden condemned what he says is the “unconscionable” assault by Hamas militants, and his administration pledges to ensure Israel has “what it needs to defend itself.”
At the White House on Saturday, Biden said he told Netanyahu that the United States “stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorist assaults. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.”
The president also warned Israel’s enemies that “this is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching.”
With reporting from VOA.