What we know about the Hamas attack on Israel

The Hamas militant group attacked Israel on Saturday, prompting the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare, “we are at war.” It was the deadliest attack in Israel in decades, leaving at least 250 dead and hundreds others wounded, according to Israel’s national emergency service.

Here’s what we know so far.

What happened?

The ruling Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday, on Simchat Torah, a normally joyous day when Jews complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll.  

The death toll rose to at least 250 in the militant group’s incursion in southern Israel, according to Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency service, making it the deadliest attack in Israel in decades. MGA reported at least 1,500 more people had been wounded in the attack Saturday that took Israel by surprise. An Israeli army spokesman says fighting is continuing in 22 locations in southern Israel.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 232 people have been killed, and 1,697 wounded, in Israeli counterattacks, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported Saturday. 

A salvo of rockets was fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City toward Israel on October 7, 2023. 

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, the Hamas militant group says it is holding “dozens” of Israeli soldiers captive in the Gaza Strip. Their capture marks a major escalation in the fighting.

A spokesman for the group’s military wing said the soldiers — including some officers — were captured during a surprise infiltration into southern Israel on Saturday.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the Hamas attacks “in the strongest terms,” urged maximum restraint and stressed that violence can’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Through his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Guterres reiterated that “only through negotiation leading to a two-state solution can peace be achieved.”

The secretary-general said that “civilians must be respected and protected” at all times as required under international law, according to Dujarric.

What have U.S. leaders said in response to the attack?

On Saturday, officials across the United States responded to the attacks.

In brief remarks from the White House, President Biden said that “the people of Israel are under attack, orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. I want to say to them and to the world, and to terrorists everywhere, that the United States stands with Israel.”

The president said he is in contact with King Abdullah II of Jordan about the situation, along with congressional members. He said has directed his team to maintain contact with “leaders throughout the region.”

“We’ll make sure that they have the help their citizens need, and they can continue to defend themselves,” Mr. Biden added.

US President Joe Biden, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addresses the attacks in Israel from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 7, 2023. 

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Leaders in New York and New Jersey condemned the attacks on Saturday.

New York Mayor Eric Adams, whose city is home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel, called the attack a “cowardly action by a terrorist organization.”

The mayor said city authorities are monitoring the situation for any possible threats.

“While there is no credible threat to New York City at this time, our administration is in touch with Jewish leaders across the five boroughs, and we have directed the NYPD to deploy additional resources to Jewish communities and houses of worship citywide to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to make sure everyone feels safe,” Adams said in a statement.

“We extend our sincerest condolences for all the innocent lives lost in these attacks, and hope that not another family has to experience the pain of losing a loved one,” he said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that he is “closely monitoring developments” in Israel. 

“Our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself remains unwavering, and I extend my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this abhorrent attack on civilians,” Austin said. “Over the coming days the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, the speaker pro tempore and temporary leader of congressional Republicans after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, was ousted from the speakership earlier this week, called Israel the U.S.’ “most sacred ally” on X

“America stands with Israel,” McHenry said. “The Israeli people have our unwavering support and the Israeli government has every right to defend its citizens against this act of war.”

In a statement, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the U.S. “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks” and “stands firmly with the Government and people of Israel.” Watson said that national security adviser Jake Sullivan has communicated with Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.  

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