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At least 200 people are dead and more than 1,000 people wounded, according to Israeli officials, after Palestinian terrorists fired rockets and infiltrated Israel, carrying out attacks on military personnel and civilians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel “is at war” Saturday, and the Israel Defense Force launched “Operation Swords of Iron” to defend the country from the terrorists. The attacks were carried out by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic terrorist group that is funded in-part by Iran, during the holiday of Simchat Torah and on Shabbat — the Jewish day of rest that is observed by many in Israel.
Among the dead was Ofir Liebstein, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, a local government entity in Israel’s Southern District, The Jerusalem Post reported. Liebstein was reportedly killed in a shootout with Palestinian terrorists while defending his settlement. Authorities only identified one other victim, a woman in her 60s who died when a rocket hit her building, while the other victims have yet to be identified.
Videos and images shared by Hamas in celebration showed the bodies of Israeli soldiers and citizens being desecrated by Palestinians. The Islamic terrorists roamed the streets hunting for Israeli citizens, and Hamas said that it had taken dozens of soldiers and citizens hostage. The terrorist attack happened on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war — known as the Yom Kippur War — where Israel’s Arab neighbors launched a surprise attack during Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar.
“We are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war. This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours,” Netanyahu said. “I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered – first of all – to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists. This currently is being carried out.”
“At the same time, I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” the prime minister continued. “In the meantime, I call on the citizens of Israel to strictly adhere to the directives of the IDF and Home Front Command. We are at war and we will win it.”
The unprecedented terrorist attack was celebrated by Iran, which congratulated “the Palestinian fighters.” The attack came after President Joe Biden unfroze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues in exchange for the release of five U.S. citizens who were being held in false imprisonment in Tehran.
IDF forces are currently engaged with the Hamas terrorists who invaded the country, and IDF spokesman Richard Hecht said he is hopeful that “there will be no more live terrorists in Israel” by the end of the day.
“We are very much focused on saving forces, where there is ongoing fighting as we speak and handling these terrorists, hopefully by the end of the day there will be no more live terrorists inside Israel,” Hecht told CNN.
Ryan Saavedra contributed to this report.