AnalysisTV anchor: We're in a war with Gaza, like we've not known before

‘A colossal failure’ as Gaza’s Hamas terrorists infiltrate, catch Israel unprepared

Assumption was that Hamas was deterred; it wasn’t. Says former Navy chief: ‘All of Israel is asking itself: Where is the IDF, where are the police, where is the security?’

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Armed terrorists in southern Israel, having infiltrated from Gaza, on the morning of October 7, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Armed terrorists in southern Israel, having infiltrated from Gaza, on the morning of October 7, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Much of Israel was awakened on Saturday morning to scarcely conceivable scenes and sounds of rocket attacks, and parts of southern Israel to gunfire, with the accompanying unthinkable news that dozens of terrorists had infiltrated from Gaza.

Precisely 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, Israel was under surprise attack — not by Arab armies, but by the Hamas terrorist group. And with Israeli civilians widely and directly targeted.

As sirens wailed throughout southern and central Israel, and the thuds of rocket impacts and interceptions reverberated, television and social media platforms began broadcasting clips showing what ought to have been unimaginable — including armed terrorists in what appeared to be a convoy of seven or eight white pickup trucks, four or five gunmen dismounting from one of them on the street of a southern Israeli city, and a handful of others seen running along the sidewalks, weapons drawn.

As rocket and mortar attacks continued, the IDF confirmed what was unfolding: dozens of terrorists had infiltrated into Israel — some by land, some by air on hang gliders, and, reportedly, some by sea.

Israel’s sophisticated border fence along the Gaza border — a barrier the IDF believed to constitute hermetic protection — had been breached in several places, Army Radio reported.

Clashes were ongoing in several residential areas in the south — with IDF special forces dashing to deploy in southern areas — and residents close to the Gaza border were ordered to stay inside their homes, doors locked.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai spoke in late morning of 21 “active scenes” across southern Israel.

A woman in her 70s was killed in a rocket attack, with reports of further fatalities mounting in the hours that followed, and censorship limiting the reporting of some of the specifics.

Security forces were tackling numerous terrorists in the town of Sderot, a police spokesman said. “Dozens of terrorists” were in the city, Channel 12 news reported.

Amid the limitations of censorship, there was reported to be “considerable concern” regarding the possibility of soldiers and/or civilians being kidnapped and taken back to Gaza. Repeated Hebrew media reports spoke of Hamas gunmen at IDF bases and positions.

The very mechanics of reporting what was unfolding were complicated by the endless alerts about ongoing rocket fire, with residents of dozens upon dozens of towns and other residential areas ordered into saferooms.

A resident of a southern kibbutz, locked inside her home, called Army Radio to say that gunmen were roaming the kibbutz, and that its security squad was trying to track them down.

Later, at around 10:30 a.m., a woman named Doreen called Channel 12 news to report that gunmen were inside her home at a southern kibbutz, and trying to get into their locked saferoom, where they were hiding. Pleading for help, she ended the conversation with an exclamation, “Oh,” and the line went quiet.

Another caller to the channel said terrorists had been roaming his area for two hours, opening fire, and pleaded for security forces to come.

Three hours after the first rockets were fired at around 6:30 a.m., Channel 12 TV showed what it said were ordinary Gazans crossing from the Strip into Israel, exploiting the breaches in the security fence.

Hamas gunmen, several military reporters said, were presumably able to move back and forth between Gaza and southern Israel, to carry out more attacks and potentially to grab Israelis and take them into Gaza.

A reporter from Gaza was seen broadcasting from a southern kibbutz, describing Hamas gunmen operating in the area.

Separately, a kibbutz resident said gunmen were moving door-to-door, opening fire at homes, setting homes on fire.

Muhammad Deif, the notorious commander of Hamas terrorist operations, declared the attack to be the start of the “great revolution” and was quoted by Hamas TV urging Israeli Arab citizens and those in neighboring states to join in the attack. Channel 12 news reported that calls were being issued in mosques in East Jerusalem to carry out attacks.

As Israeli forces sought to find and confront the gunmen, the IDF formally declared a “war footing” — indicating preparations for a full-scale war in Gaza. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, promising victory and declaring that Hamas had made a “great mistake,” ordered a call-up of military reserves, its precise scope to be determined by the extent of the crisis.

By late morning, Hamas was said to have fired over 2,000 rockets into Israel.

Shortly before noon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pronounced that Israel was “at war”; the IDF’s spokesman said the same thing and cautioned about inaccurate claims and fake news, amid repeated unconfirmed reports of multiple Israeli military and civilian fatalities.

Even as Israel’s political chiefs began to convene in emergency consultations, with the full extent of the infiltration and its consequences still unfolding, Hebrew media began quoting unnamed officials castigating the political and military echelons for the fact that Israel, preoccupied with internal argument, had again been taken by surprise.

The IDF’s assumption, in recent years, was that Hamas was deterred from carrying out major attacks in Israel — fearing the potency of Israel’s response, and wary of plunging Gaza into renewed devastation. All too evidently, that assumption was unfounded.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eli Marom, the former commander of the Israeli Navy. (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)e firt

“We’re in a war with Gaza, the likes of which we’ve not known before,” Danny Kushmaro, the Channel 12 TV news anchor said some four hours after the attack began.

“All of Israel is asking itself: Where is the IDF, where are the police, where is the security?” agreed Eli Maron, the former head of the Israeli Navy, alongside him in the studio. “It’s a colossal failure; the [defense] establishments have simply failed, with vast consequences.”

Amos Yadlin, a former IDF intelligence chief, invoked echoes of the Yom Kippur War — another attack marked by “intelligence failure,” with the enemy initiating conflict.

Still, he stressed, Israel needed to remain calm. The immediate priority, Yadlin said, was to track down and deal with all the terrorists inside Israel, and prevent the conflict spreading to other fronts, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and especially Hezbollah in the north.

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