Israel’s military forces have opened up fighting in nearly two dozen locations along the Gaza border after Hamas terrorists launched thousands of rockets into Israel Saturday morning.
“There is no community in Southern Israel where we do not have forces in all the towns,” Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a statement Saturday evening. “There are communities that have been rid of terrorists, but we want to finish additional scans of the area before declaring so.”
Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists invaded areas of southern Israel as rocket barrages launched from the Gaza Strip struck the area Saturday, killing at least 300 Israelis and wounding at least 1500 others, according to Fox News.
A senior Hamas military commander, Mohammad Deif, announced the start of the operation, calling on Palestinians everywhere to attack the Israelis, saying in a broadcast on Hamas media that the group launched thousands of rockets and calling the attack “the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth.”
Reports on the number of rockets have ranged from 2,100 to 5,000, the former reported by the IDF, the latter claimed by Deif in his initial announcement.
Following a meeting of the Israeli government’s security cabinet on Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We are embarking on a long and difficult war that was forced on us by a murderous Hamas attack. The first stage is ending at this time by the destruction of the vast majority of the enemy forces that infiltrated our territory. At the same time, we have begun the offensive phase, which will continue with neither limitations nor respite until the objectives are achieved.We will restore security to the citizens of Israel and we will win.”
The IDF claimed to have blocked many of the rockets with the country’s robust missile defense system, Iron Dome. A retaliatory strike on Hamas targets has resulted in at least 198 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza health officials.
In a video message early Saturday morning, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war — not in an operation, not in rounds — at war.”
Following Netanyahu’s earlier comments, the IDF announced the initiation of “Operation Swords of Iron,” which is the name for its “large-scale operation to defend Israeli civilians against the combined attack launched against Israel by Hamas this morning.”
Hagari said the IDF has fought Hamas militants in 22 locations, with “hostage situations” in the cities of Ofakim and Beeri. The IDF has deployed special forces to those cities, where “live fire fighting” has broken out.
“Dozens of terrorists infiltrated on foot a large number of locations,” Hagari explained. “There was also a naval infiltration bringing the terrorists to Zikim. There are also a large number of breaches in the security fence.”
The IDF said it aims to kill all the Hamas agents who attacked Israel today, and Hagari urged Israeli residents to shelter in place until the threat has been cleared. U.S. Embassy staff in Israel are also sheltering in place.
Israel has also mobilized its reserve forces with four divisions headed immediately for Gaza along with tanks and other artillery to deal with mortar strikes and potential new rocket attacks.
“Wherever there are Hamas terrorists, they will be found and eliminated. They have no immunity,” Hagari said. “We are also striking high-profile targets.”
He also promised that the IDF and Israeli government will conduct a “sharp and thorough” review of how this attack occurred after the forces achieve “full security in the Gaza Strip.”
The White House said it “unequivocally condemns” the Hamas attacks in Israel, stressing there is “never any justification for terrorism,” according to National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.
Republicans in the House and Senate blasted the Biden administration for unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian assets just weeks before the attack occurred. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei just days before the attack warned Israel that “the usurper regime is coming to an end.”
Yahya Rahim Safavi, an Iranian military commander and special adviser, applauded the attacks, cheering on the “liberation of Palestine,” according to reports.
“We congratulate the Palestinian fighters,” a report quoted Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying. “We will stand by the Palestinian fighters until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem.”
Lior Haiat, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, told Fox News Digital Saturday, “Those terror organizations [Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad] are working as proxies of the Ayatollah regime” in the Islamic Republic.
“Iran is trying for years, especially in the last few months, to have a terror organization, both the Islamic Jihad that is fully supported and financed by Iran and Hamas terror organization that is also financed but not fully by Iran. They are calling them to attack Israel and Israelis.”
He stressed that Iran is “without a doubt … behind the scenes” of this war against Israel.