The Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip said Saturday that it had launched over 5,000 rockets at Israelis in a surprise attack that it called “Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge.”
The terror group also breached the barrier surrounding Gaza, with dozens of gunmen infiltrating Israeli towns and communities in an unprecedented attack that killed over 200 and wounded over 1,100 by 9 p.m., with numbers expected to rise.
“Today the people are regaining their revolution,” Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif said in a recorded message, as he called on Palestinians from East Jerusalem to northern Israel to join the fight and “expel the occupiers and demolish the walls.”
“We must set the earth on fire under the feet of the occupiers,” he said, claiming that Hamas had fired over 5,000 rockets into Israel.
Israel put the number at more than 2,200 rockets.
In the 10-minute speech by the shadowy Deif, he claimed that the operation was launched in retaliation for Israel’s “desecration” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and is a follow-up of previous warnings by the group.
He added that it was also in response to Israel killing and wounding hundreds of Palestinians this year, and said that Jerusalem had rejected offers for prisoner exchange deals.
He also called on the “Islamic resistance in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon” — countries with terror movements that are militarily supported by Iran — to “merge their resistance with that of the Palestinians today” and “start marching towards Palestine now.”
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas who is considered to be its leader in the West Bank, issued a statement along the same lines, calling on the Arab and Islamic nations to join “Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge.”
The head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, his deputy, Saleh Al-Arouri, and other members of the Hamas leadership "prostrate in gratitude" for the ongoing attacks against Israel. pic.twitter.com/ACuajF4PTf
— Gianluca Pacchiani (@GLucaPacchiani) October 7, 2023
Another video circulating on social media shows Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, Saleh al-Arouri, and other members of the group’s leadership praying while a TV next to them plays clips of the ongoing attacks.
The Temple Mount site is considered the holiest place in Judaism, as the location of two biblical temples, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest shrine in Islam, making the area a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Major conflicts and bouts of violence have broken out following events at the site, where Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to visit during certain hours but may not pray, under a status quo arrangement that has prevailed for decades.
In recent years, Jewish religious nationalists, including members of the governing coalition, have increasingly visited the site and demanded equal prayer rights for Jews there, infuriating the Palestinians and Muslims around the world.
Over the past few days, Hamas has issued repeated condemnations following visits by groups of Jews to the Temple Mount during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Palestinian groups from throughout the political spectrum have also railed against restrictions imposed by the Israeli police on Muslim worshipers wishing to pray in the compound over the past week, after videos circulating on social media showed an altercation between Israeli officers and Muslims in the Old City near the entrance to the mosque.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also published a formal letter of protest.
Agencies contributed to this report.