Militants launch surprise attack on Israel, fire 'thousands of rockets' from Gaza

The launches came after weeks of heightened tensions along Israel's volatile border with Gaza

By Agencies

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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Sat 7 Oct 2023, 12:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 10 Oct 2023, 12:47 PM

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented infiltration Saturday into southern Israel, sending fighters across the border and firing thousands of rockets into the country as the ruling Hamas militant group announced the beginning of a new operation.

The Israeli military put the country on war alert and began striking targets in Gaza in response. In a serious escalation, salvos of rockets fired from Gaza set off constant air raid sirens as far north as Jerusalem.

The armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said it was behind the aerial assault, claiming its militants had launched more than 5,000 rockets.

"We announce Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and we fired, in the first strike of 20 minutes, more than 5,000 rockets," the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said.

The launches came after weeks of heightened tensions along Israel's volatile border with Gaza, and heavy fighting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

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Israel has maintained a blockade over Gaza since Hamas, a militant group that opposes Israel, seized control of the territory in 2007. The two have fought four wars since then. There have also been numerous rounds of smaller fighting between Israel and Hamas and other smaller militant groups based in Gaza.

The blockade, which restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, has devastated the territory's economy. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep militant groups from building up their arsenals. The Palestinians say the closure amounts to collective punishment.

The rocket fire comes during a period of heavy fighting in the West Bank, where nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military raids this year. In the volatile northern West Bank, scores of militants and residents poured into the streets in celebration at the news of the rocket barrages.

Israel says the raids are aimed at militants, but stone-throwing protesters and people uninvolved in the violence have also been killed. Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets have killed over 30 people.

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