Hamas-Israel conflict: What you need to know to stay safe

Hamas-Israel conflict: What you need to know to stay safe

  • Escalation in Conflict: The Hamas-Israel conflict intensified when Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack, leading to widespread casualties and rocket fire from both sides.
  • Historical Background: This conflict has deep-rooted historical tensions, with a long-standing history of violence and territorial disputes dating back to before Israel’s establishment in 1948.
  • International Reactions: The international community responded with condemnation of the Hamas attack, while Arab states called for calm. The US expressed support for Israel, while regional adversaries like Iran and Hezbollah voiced support for the Palestinian cause.

Oct.7:Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that the nation is now in a state of war, following an unexpected large-scale attack by Palestinian militants from Gaza early Saturday morning. The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, launched a barrage of rockets and infiltrated Israeli territory, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict between the two sides.

Netanyahu conveyed the gravity of the situation in a video message, saying, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war – not in an operation, not in rounds – at war.” Israeli authorities reported at least 70 casualties and over 985 injuries, with some Israelis taken captive by Hamas.

Israel’s military swiftly responded with airstrikes targeting what they identified as Hamas positions in Gaza. Palestinian officials reported at least 198 casualties and numerous injuries resulting from the Israeli strikes.

Hamas-Israel conflict
Rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel, in Gaza City, on Saturday
Source:Mohammed Salem/Reuters

What Happened?

Around 6:30 a.m. local time on Saturday, sirens rang out across Israel, reaching as far north as Tel Aviv, east to Beer Sheba, and numerous locations in between as rockets flew overhead. Palestinian militants from Gaza also breached Israeli territory via land, sea, and air, with some even using paragliders, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Residents living near Gaza were advised to stay in their homes.

Social media videos obtained by Some news channels showed masked gunmen in a pickup truck driving through the Israeli city of Sderot, located near the Gaza border, with audible gunfire in the background. The IDF reported approximately 2,200 rockets fired at Israel, while Hamas claimed the number was closer to 5,000. To put this in perspective, during the 50-day conflict between the two sides in 2014, around 4,000 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel.

Hamas referred to this operation as “Al-Aqsa Storm,” citing it as a response to attacks on women, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the ongoing siege of Gaza. The group also claimed to have captured Israeli soldiers, sharing videos on social media purportedly showing captured soldiers. CNN authenticated these videos, suggesting that at least one Israeli soldier was taken prisoner by Hamas.

IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari stated, “There are hostages and prisoners of war that Hamas took. There are also deaths among IDF soldiers. We don’t have an exact number yet – we are at war.” Additionally, a video circulated on social media, allegedly showing a captured Israeli military vehicle, while another video showed a tank on fire near the Gaza border.

Hamas-Israel conflict
Smoke billows from a residential building following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday
Source:Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s Response

In response to the attack, Israel initiated “Operation Swords of Iron,” launching strikes on multiple targets in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized that Israel’s response to Hamas would come at a significant cost to the militant group.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht informed CNN that tens of thousands of Israeli reservists had been called up to assist in the situation. He expressed the hope that “there will be no more live terrorists in Israel” by the end of the day. Israel also heightened its readiness along its northern borders in anticipation of potential attacks from Lebanon or Syria.

Inside Gaza, the sound of Israeli warplanes and explosions filled the air, accompanied by rising plumes of black smoke. Palestinians were barred from crossing checkpoints into Jerusalem from the West Bank, and Israel announced the closure of all educational facilities on Sunday.

Hamas-Israel conflict:
Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

How did the two sides get here?

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians dates back to before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, marked by decades of tension and violence. The region has witnessed the loss of thousands of lives and numerous injuries during this long-standing conflict.

This year, violence has surged, with the highest number of Palestinians, both militants and civilians, killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces in nearly two decades. Likewise, there has been an increase in Israeli and foreign casualties, mostly civilians, due to Palestinian attacks.

Israel and Hamas have a history of armed conflict, starting with the 1987 First Palestinian Intifada, an uprising against Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but the territory, home to approximately 2 million Palestinians, fell under Hamas’ control in 2007 after a brief civil war with Fatah, another Palestinian faction that forms the backbone of the Palestinian Authority.

Following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, Israel and Egypt imposed a strict blockade on the territory, which continues to this day. Israel also maintains an air and naval blockade on Gaza. The most recent conflict between Hamas and Israel occurred in 2021, lasting for 11 days and resulting in casualties on both sides.

Notably, Saturday’s assault coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war, when Israel faced a surprise attack from its Arab neighbors on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, on October 6, 1973.

Understanding Hamas

Hamas is an Islamist organization with a military wing that emerged in 1987, stemming from the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group founded in Egypt in the late 1920s. The term “Hamas” stands for “Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia” in Arabic, translating to the Islamic Resistance Movement. The group, like many Palestinian factions and political parties, regards Israel as an occupying power and seeks to liberate Palestinian territories, considering Israel an illegitimate state.

Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel has been a significant obstacle to peace talks in the past, including its opposition to the 1993 Oslo Accords, a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas and based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, differs from Hamas in recognizing Israel and participating in multiple unsuccessful peace initiatives.

Over the years, Hamas has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Israel and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Israel. Israel accuses Iran of backing Hamas.

Hamas-Israel conflict:
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Regional Reactions

Western nations have condemned the Hamas attack and pledged support for Israel. Meanwhile, Arab states, including those that have recognized Israel, have called for calm.

United States President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing unequivocal condemnation of the Hamas attack and offering support to Israel. Saudi Arabia, engaged in talks with the US regarding potential normalization of relations with Israel, closely monitored the situation and called for an immediate ceasefire.

The UAE, which recognized Israel in 2020, also urged restraint and an immediate ceasefire to prevent further escalation. On the contrary, Israel’s adversaries, such as Iran and Hezbollah, welcomed the attack, vowing support for the Palestinian cause.

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Hiroshi Tanaka

Hiroshi Tanaka, a tech enthusiast and MIT alumnus with a degree in Computer Science, is your source for all things tech-related. His analytical mind and passion for innovation shine through in his writing. Hiroshi's articles dissect the latest technological advancements, making even the most complex topics easy to understand. Stay informed and inspired by Hiroshi's insights.

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