Priority is to clear the terrorists from urban areas, PM says

‘We are at war,’ Netanyahu says, after Hamas launches devastating surprise attack

PM vows to exact ‘unprecedented price’ from terror group after hundreds of gunmen cross border, attack homes and IDF bases; thousands of rockets fired; opposition backs gov’t, IDF

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement on October 7, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Screen grab)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement on October 7, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Screen grab)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “is at war” after Hamas launched a devastating surprise attack on the country on Saturday, and vowed to exact an “unprecedented price” from the terror group.

“Citizens of Israel, we are at war. Not an operation, not a round [of fighting,] at war! This morning Hamas initiated a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens,” Netanyahu said in his filmed statement in Hebrew.

The statement, which appeared to have been filmed at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv, was posted at around 11 a.m., several hours into the fighting that erupted after Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel and hundreds of gunmen crossed the border with the Gaza Strip and invaded multiple Israeli towns and communities.

At least 200 Israelis were confirmed killed and over 1,400 wounded by evening. Additional casualties were reported from the Gaza border communities, where gun battles still raged between the IDF and terrorists who were seen roaming freely in several places.

“We have been in this since the early morning hours. I have convened the heads of the defense establishment. I’ve given directives, first and foremost, to clear the [affected] urban areas of the terrorists who penetrated them,” Netanyahu said. “This is happening right now.”

“In parallel, I am initiating an extensive mobilization of the reserves to fight back on a scale and intensity that the enemy has so far not experienced. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” Netanyahu said.

Police officers evacuate a woman and a child from a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Oct. 7, 2023 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“I urge the public to follow strictly the directives of the military, the Home Front Command. We are at war and will win,” Netanyahu said.

Throughout Saturday, the IDF said it struck multiple terrorist squads in southern Israel, as well as several sites belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The sites targeted by Israeli Air Force fighter jets and drones included 17 military compounds, four headquarters, and two high-rise towers the IDF said were used to house Hamas assets.

The military said it notified residents of the two buildings before they were hit.

IAF fighter jets dropped more than 16 tons of munitions on Hamas assets in the Strip, according to a military source.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also vowed that Israel “will win this war.”

“Hamas made a grave mistake this morning and started a war against the State of Israel. IDF soldiers are fighting the enemy at all the infiltration sites,” Gallant said in remarks provided by his office.

“The State of Israel will win this war,” he added.

A joint statement from Knesset opposition party heads gave full backing to the IDF and called on the international community to condemn the acts of terror.

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, National Unity head Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman and Labor party head Merav Michaeli said, “In days like these there is no opposition and no coalition in Israel.”

We “are united in the face of terrorism” and the need to strike with “a strong and determined fist,” said the statement, calling for retribution against Hamas and all terrorist organizations that cooperate with it.

Rockets are fired from Gaza City towards Israel on October 7, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

“It is necessary to mobilize the international community against terrorism,” the statement continued, ending with strong support for the citizens of Israel, active and reserve IDF soldiers all security and emergency forces.

“We call on all citizens — obey the directives of the Home Front Command, take care of yourselves and together we will overcome terrorism,” said the statement.

Organizers of protests against the government’s judicial overhaul scheduled for Saturday night announced the cancellation of the weekly demonstrations.

“We stand with the residents of Israel and give full support to the IDF and the security forces,” the protest organizers said in a statement.

“We call on all those who are needed to report [for duty] and play their part to safeguard the security and health of of the residents of Israel.”

The Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest group also urges all those who are needed to report for duty “without hesitation.”

Israeli soldiers head south near Ashkelon, Israel, Israel, on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Hundreds of reservists had previously refused to report for duty so long as the government pursued its controversial reform.

President Isaac Herzog also called for solidarity.

“The State of Israel is at a difficult moment. I am wishing much strength to the IDF, its commanders and fighters and the entirety of the security and rescue forces,” Herzog wrote on X.

“I wish to encourage and strengthen all in Israel who are under attack. I urge everyone to follow the instructions of the Home Front Command, and demonstrate mutual solidarity and calm. Together we will triumph over those who wish to harm us.”

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