Israel update: Battle in the night; US support 'unwavering', UN to meet today

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to defeat Hamas following the group's surprise attacks, but told his nation that the war "will take time"

Hamas fighters reportedly seized and set on fire an Israeli tank (photo: DW)
Hamas fighters reportedly seized and set on fire an Israeli tank (photo: DW)


Early Saturday, Islamist-militant Hamas said it had launched 5,000 rockets against Israeli targets. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that "terrorist operatives" have also infiltrated into Israel.

The attack is unprecedented, with Palestinian militants entering Israeli towns and taking both civilians and soldiers hostage.

Israel's national rescue service said at least 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is "at war" and that the "enemy will pay a price" for the attack.

Israel responded to the attacks that killed scores of people by carrying out air strikes.

Authorities in Gaza reported almost 200 deaths as a result of the strikes.

Netanyahu warns Gaza residents to leave areas where Hamas is hiding

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to defeat Hamas following the group's surprise attacks, but told his nation that the war "will take time."

In a televised speech, Netanyahu said what happened "has never been seen in Israel" and vowed to take "mighty vengeance for this black day."

He vowed that Israel would reach every place that Hamas is hiding.

"I tell Gaza's people to leave those places now," the prime minister added.

He also told Hamas that he holds the militant group personally responsible for the safety and wellbeing of Israeli civilians and soldiers it has taken captive, adding that Israel will "settle the score with anyone who harms them."

Biden: US support for Israel 'rock solid and unwavering'

The United States "stands with Israel and will not ever fail to have their back," US President Joe Biden said in a televised statement at the White House on Saturday afternoon.

"This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks," the president warned.

He added that the rocket strikes, deadly shootings and kidnappings of Israelis by Hamas were "unconscionable."

Biden said he had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "my administration's support for Israel's security is rock solid and unwavering."

He said he would remain personally in contact with Netanyahu and was being regularly briefed on the latest intelligence related to the attacks.

Biden was flanked by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he spoke.

Rescue service: 100 dead in Israel after Hamas rocket assault

The death toll in Israel has risen to 100 from Hamas' surprise incursion, a spokesman for Israel's national rescue service MDA said.

The figure makes Saturday one of the deadliest days in Israel's 75-year history.

Israeli media, citing medical sources, reported that the death toll reached at least 150, with more than 1,000 wounded.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, the MDA said its teams have responded to reports of casualties in the cities of Yavneh, Givatayim, Bat Yam, Beit Dagan, Tel Aviv and Rashlatz.

With hundreds of people hospitalized in serious and critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise further.

Israeli airstrikes, Hamas rockets continue after nightfall

Israeli planes bombed the house of Hamas Gaza chief Yehya Al-Sinwar in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Hamas media said, with no reports of casualties.

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza intensified into the night, flattening several residential buildings in giant explosions, including a 14-story tower that held dozens of apartments as well as Hamas offices.

Israel ordered its state-run electricity company to halt supply to the Gaza Strip.

"I have signed an order instructing (Israel) Electric Company to stop the electricity supply to Gaza," Energy Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

At least 198 people in Gaza were killed Saturday and at least 1,610 wounded in Israel's retaliation, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

On Saturday evening Hamas fired a barrage of rockets into central Israel, hitting four cities, including Tel Aviv and a nearby suburb, where two people were seriously injured.

Israeli opposition asked to join emergency government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to join a national unity government, his Likud party said in a statement.

The Times of Israel said the government would take a similar format to the one Levi Eshkol formed with then-opposition leader Menachem Begin before the Six Day War in 1967.

Earlier Saturday, Lapid said he had met with Netanyahu and suggested the prime minister replace his far-right coalition with a broad unity government of centrist parties.

He said Netanyahu knows he "can't manage a war" with his current partners.

The Times of Israel said Gantz was considering the offer for the duration of the war, but the unity administration should "deal with security challenges alone."

Netanyahu is the head of the most right-wing government in Israel's history.

Israeli ambassador says Hamas must 'pay a high price' for attack

Israel's Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor has told DW that Israel must ensure that "Hamas and its leadership pay a high price" for declaring war, as he and Israel's government put it, against the country.

"It's frightening, because at the end of the day, you see the Hamas terrorist organization going out and shooting civilians," Prosor told DW. "They don't really care if it's men, women or children."

"We have to make sure that we really retaliate in a way or a manner that they will … think twice or three times before they think to do something similar in the future," he said.

Prosor said militants were holding hostages, some of them in Israel and some of them back in Gaza.

Asked whether it was a defense and intelligence failing for such a large multi-pronged assault to catch the region's best military seemingly off guard, he said:

"It's a really legitimate and a good question, and as you know, we Israelis will go down and really scrutinize this thing — but not now. Now, we're focused on defending the people of Israel. As we speak, fighting is still going on."

Prosor also said that while he appreciated the outpouring of international support, he anticipated that this might change in the coming days, and said he hoped the international community would understand that a strong response would likely follow from the Israeli security forces.

"We don't need this finger, morally looking at us and telling us this is disproportionate, because what we saw today was unprovoked, was basically done in a way that puts so many civilians in jeopardy, and there has to be a price paid by Hamas leadership, clearly, and it's going to be done," he said.

Germany's Baerbock warns of risk of 'major regional escalation'

The surprise attack by Hamas militants against Israel risks provoking a "major regional escalation," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Saturday.

In a statement, she warned that other actors in the Middle East could join the hostilities.

"This terrorism by Hamas once again moves the region farther from peace," Baerbock said.

She added that the violence showed once again that "only a political solution can permit Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and dignity."

Israeli military: Fighting continues in 22 areas of southern Israel

The Israeli military says fighting is continuing in 22 locations in southern Israel.

In a statement, the army's chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said, "there is no community in southern Israel where we do not have forces."

He said Israel has regained control in some communities but the army is still conducting patrols to make sure they are safe.

Hagari also confirmed ongoing hostage situations in two towns — Ofakim and Beeri.

"There are special forces there with senior commanders and live fire fights are going on there," he said.

Hagari said that Israel was striking targets in Gaza from the air and that ground operations were imminent.

He did not elaborate but said an additional four divisions of troops, as well as tanks, were being deployed to the already heavily fortified area.

Germany issues travel warning for Israel, Palestinian territories

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it was "strongly" advising against travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories due to the sudden outbreak of violence in the region.

The ministry said it based its assessment on "serious military clashes in the area around the Gaza Strip with rocket fire as far away as Tel Aviv and attacks on the local population."

Earlier Saturday, Germany's national airline Lufthansa said it had cut flights to Israel.

Lufthansa said it would maintain a single flight to Frankfurt but "all other Lufthansa flights to and from Tel Aviv have been canceled for this Saturday."

Biden warns 'hostile' parties not to seek advantage from attack on Israel

US President Joe Biden said Washington was ready to offer "all appropriate means of support" to Israel after the country was attacked by pro-Iran group Hamas.

Biden condemned the "appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza" and warned "any other party hostile to Israel" not to seek advantage.

Biden spoke by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to offer US support.

"I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel," Biden said in a statement issued after their call.

"Israel has a right to defend itself and its people," he added.

Biden and his team have been working to negotiate a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as a US-Saudi defense pact.

UN Security Council due to meet on Sunday

UN Security Council chair Brazil announced Saturday that it will call an emergency meeting of the body to address the escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

"The Brazilian government condemns the series of bombings and ground attacks carried out today in Israel starting from the Gaza Strip," Brazil's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, urging parties to "avoid escalating the situation."

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said later that an emergency meeting of the Security Council had been arranged for Sunday.

Guterres condemned the attack by Hamas and urged "all diplomatic efforts to avoid a wider conflagration," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned for the civilian population and urges maximum restraint. Civilians must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law at all times," Dujarric said.

Israeli military confirm that Hamas have taken hostages

The Israeli military has confirmed earlier reports that Hamas militants who entered Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip have taken Israeli citizens and soldiers captive.

There had also been reports that some of the hostages had been taken back to Gaza.

The miltary did not say how many hostages were being held.

Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri also told news outlet Aljazeera that the militant group had taken hostages.

"As to our prisoners I say; your freedom is looming large. What we have in hand will see you set free. The longer fighting continues, the higher the number of prisoners will become," Arouri said.

How will Israel respond to the Hamas assault?

Political analyst Guido Steinberg said that the result of any military response from Israel will be that "lots of civilians will be killed."

"If the first reports about Hamas fighters taking hostages, alive or dead, are correct, then we should expect some kind of ground incursion by Israeli forces, and in this case probably a war that will last a little bit longer than the recent ones," he told DW.

Almost 200 reported killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza

Gaza's Health Ministry said that at least 198 people had been killed and a further 1,610 were "wounded with different injuries" following Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave.

The strikes were a response by Israel to the surprise assault on Israel by Hamas militants.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said their "enemy will pay a price like they have never known before."

Observers have been wondering whether Israeli forces will launch a ground invasion against Gaza or whether the response will be limited to strikes.

US pledges 'unwavering' support for Israel

The United States underlined its full support for Israel following the rocket strikes and incursion by Hamas militants in Israeli border towns on Saturday.

"Our commitment to Israel's right to defend itself remains unwavering," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

He added that the Pentagon would work "to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism."

The White House mirrored Austin's comments, with National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson saying: "The United States unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism."

"We stand firmly with the government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken to Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and we remain in close contact with our Israeli partners," Watson added.

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Published: 08 Oct 2023, 9:14 AM