Gaza City
A plume of smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City during an Israeli air strike, on October 8, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Israel, reeling from the deadliest attack in half a century, formally declared war on Hamas Sunday as the conflict's death toll surged above 1,000 after the Palestinian militant group launched a massive surprise assault from Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu steeled the shocked and grieving nation for a "long and difficult" war after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Israel on Saturday and sent a wave of fighters who gunned down civilians and took at least 100 hostages.

The bloody escalation sharply heightened Middle East tensions and killed more than 600 people on the Israeli side, the country's worst losses since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war when it came under attack from a coalition led by Egypt and Syria.

"Israel was caught flat-footed by the unprecedented attack," said Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative. "I've heard multiple comparisons to 9/11, and many Israelis are struggling to understand how this could have happened."

In Gaza - which was hammered by Israeli air strikes on 800 targets ahead of what many feared may be a looming ground invasion - officials reported at least 413 deaths, with thousands more wounded across the war zone.

Major airlines cancel dozens of flights to Israel

Major airlines cancelled dozens of flights to Tel Aviv this weekend after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel.

American Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa, Emirates and Ryanair are among those pulling flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

However, airport authorities did not stop commercial air links with Israel's second international airport at Eilat, a tourist destination on the Red Sea. Read More

United States will provide munitions and equipment to Israel

The United States will provide munitions and equipment to Israel and boost American forces in the Middle East in response to the attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Pentagon said Sunday.

"The United States government will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions," US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

The US defense chief also said he had directed the USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier, and its accompanying warships to the eastern Mediterranean, and that Washington was augmenting fighter aircraft squadrons in the region.

Palestinian apartment tower blast
A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Image Credit: AP

Biden orders 'additional support' for Israel

US President Joe Biden has ordered "additional support" for Israel after the attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas, the White House said Sunday, without giving details.

"The President directed additional support for Israel in the face of this unprecedented terrorist assault by Hamas," the White House said in a statement. Joe Biden told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that additional assistance for the Israeli Defense Forces was on its way to Israel and more would follow in the coming days, the White House said.

Some Europeans also believed dead or captive

A French woman in Israel has died “in the context of the terrorist attacks,” France’s foreign ministry said Sunday, without providing details. French teams in Israel and Paris are trying to clarify the situations of several citizens who have not been located, the statement said.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it has to assume that German citizens are among those kidnapped by Hamas on Saturday. It didn’t say how many people that might be, but said they are all believed also to be Israeli citizens.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said two Ukrainian women had been killed. Both had lived in Israel for a long time, he said without elaborating on the circumstances of their death.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said two Belarusians were injured during the shelling of the city of Ashkelon, and one of them was in serious condition.

Israel confirms Americans are among Hamas captives

Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, said American citizens are among those who were taken captive but gave no details about them, nor about Americans who might have been killed.

“Unfortunately I can’t. We have a lot of dual citizens in Israel. I suspect there are several, but we’re still trying to sort through all of all this information after this horrific surprise attack and we’ll make sure to put that information out so that the loved ones of these people who were killed and who are held hostage, they know as quickly as possible,” Dermer told CNN.

Erdogan urges Israel, Hamas 'to support peace'

Copy of 2023-07-27T221820Z_220614018_RC2081AGYOIL_RTRMADP_3_TURKEY-CENBANK-DEPUTY-1690529073517
"There is no good in (attacking) civilians," Erdogan said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday urged Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas "to support peace" and refrain from harming civilians.

"There is no good in (attacking) civilians," Erdogan said as all-out war raged around Gaza. "We are ready to do everything to reduce the tensions... We invite all the actors to support peace."

US could announce new military support

"We're looking at specific additional requests that the Israelis have made. I think you're likely to hear more about that later today," Blinken told CNN.

The United States, a close ally and major supplier of arms to Israel, could announce later Sunday new military support for the country following the Hamas attack, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

"We're looking at specific additional requests that the Israelis have made. I think you're likely to hear more about that later today," Blinken told CNN.

"President (Joe) Biden's direction was to make sure that we're providing Israel everything it needs in this moment to deal with the attacks from Hamas."

German leader warns of danger of regional escalation

German Chancellor OIaf Scholz is stressing the need to avoid a wider “conflagration” in the Middle East after Hamas attacked Israel.

Scholz said he spoke Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and assured him that Israel’s security is a cornerstone of German policy. He pledged that “we will act accordingly.” He said he plans to speak to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi and will support Egypt in efforts to mediate and de-escalate.

Scholz said he also will talk by phone with the leader of the U.S., France and the U.K. to evaluate the situation.

Israeli security cabinet declares the country is at war

An Israeli self-propelled howitzer
An Israeli self-propelled howitzer rolls on a highway near the southern city of Sderot on October 8, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says his Security Cabinet has declared the country at war following a deadly Hamas assault in southern Israel.

The decision, announced on Sunday, formally authorizes “the taking of significant military steps,” it said it a statement.

“The war that was forced on the State of Israel in a murderous terrorist assault from the Gaza Strip began at 06:00 yesterday,” it said.

It gave no further details. But Netanyahu had previous declared the country at war, and the military has promised a harsh response in Gaza.

Israeli media say at least 600 people have been killed in the surprise cross-border incursion by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip.

Japan and South Korea condemn Hamas attack

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday condemned Hamas and other Palestinian militants over their incursion into Israel, urging all parties to use restraint.

“Japan strongly condemns the attacks which severely harmed innocent civilians,” Kishida said in his message posted on X.

Kishida also condemned the militants over the reported abduction of a number of people, urging their immediate release.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry also said it strongly condemns “the indiscriminate attacks on Israel from Gaza.” and calls for an immediate halt of these attacks.

The Japanese government said it was working to ensure the safety of its citizens in Israel and Gaza, while the South Korean foreign ministry urged its nationals to leave.

Palestinians seek refuge in UN schools

Palestinians who fled their homes amid Israeli strikes
Palestinians who fled their homes amid Israeli strikes, shelter in a United Nations-run school, in Gaza City October 8, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

The UN agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, said over 20,000 people were sheltering in 44 of its schools around Gaza by Saturday evening.

“The number (of displaced) is rapidly increasing, “ said Inas Hamdan, acting public information officer in Gaza.

The agency said three of its schools suffered “collateral” damage from Israeli airstrikes. The agency also said its operations of nine water wells around the Gaza Strip were stopped early Saturday. Operations in three wells resumed Sunday, said Hamdan. The agency’s food distribution centers, which provide for over 540,000 of Gaza residents, have been closed since Saturday.

In an UNRWA school in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood northwest of Gaza city center, residents described overnight Israeli strikes that hit the school’s courtyard causing panic and light injuries among those sheltering there.

At another school serving as a shelter in central Gaza city, people were piling blankets and food stuff in the three-story building. New arrivals brought in mattresses, packing their children into small and crowded classrooms.

“We didn’t know where to go,” said Umm Mohammad, or mother of Mohammad, a resident of a district on the eastern borders of Gaza. She described waking up in the middle of the night to screams, strikes and calls for evacuation. “We arrived at the schools miraculously because there was no transport.”

Leaders of Egypt, Jordan discuss crisis

The leaders of Israel’s neighbors, Egypt and Jordan, discussed the ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to a statement by the Egyptian president, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi received a phone call from King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Both leaders agreed on working to avoid further deterioration of the situation, the statement said.

Explosions and airstrikes in Rafah

A truck clears the rubble around buildings destroyed during Israeli airstrikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 8, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

In the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Sunday, residents heard a loud explosion, apparently from an Israeli airstrike that hit a target close to the borders with Egypt. It was not immediately clear what was targeted. Residents said a house in the area had been evacuated.

Israel carried out dozens of airstrikes in Rafah overnight. One of the strikes hit three homes in one of the most crowded refugee camps, Shaboura, killing 19 members of the same family, according to a family member who posted their names on his social media. Surviving family members and neighbors filled Al-Farouk mosque, holding funeral prayers as the bodies of those killed wrapped in white shrouds lined the floor. The crowd then marched to the nearby cemetery for burial, some carrying the bodies.

Also on Sunday, loudspeakers from mosques and moving cars in Rafah blared with condolences and praise for fighters from Hamas, believed to be natives of Rafah, who were killed during the assault on Israel.

The Pope calls for the violence to stop

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed “apprehension and pain at what is happening in Israel, where violence is again exploding even faster, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries.”

Speaking to the faithful in St Peter’s Square, the pope offered prayers for the victims and their families “and for all those who are experiencing hours of terror and anguish.” The pontiff called on the attacks by both sides to stop. “Terrorism and war don’t bring solutions, only death. War is a defeat. Every war is a defeat."

Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemns ‘Israeli military aggression’

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was struck by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, October 8, 2023. Image Credit: AP

The world’s largest bloc of Muslim countries has condemned what it refers to as “Israeli military aggression” amid ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Sunday that it is “greatly concerned about the developments on the ground and the dangerous Israeli escalation in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The 57-member bloc went on to condemn “the Israeli military aggression that led to the fall of hundreds of martyrs and wounded among the Palestinian people.”

Hezbollah replace destroyed tent that had led to tensions

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency says Hezbollah fighters have set up a tent in a disputed area along the country’s tense southern border hours after an Israeli drone destroyed another one in the same place.

Hezbollah initially erected the tent over the summer in a disputed area along Lebanon’s border with Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that Lebanon claims is Lebanese territory.

That has led to tensions with Israel over the past months and the UN has been working to persuade Hezbollah to remove the tent.

Earlier Sunday, Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets and shells at three Israeli positions in the disputed area of Chebaa Farms and Kfar Chouba hills and Israel’s military fired back using armed drones.

Romania repatriates hundreds of citizens and other foreigners

Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that 346 Romanian citizens and other foreigners were repatriated from Israel overnight on two separate flights.

The ministry said Sunday that a mobile consular team was sent to Ben Gurion Airport from the Romanian Embassy in Tel Aviv and Romania’s representative office in Ramallah to provide consular assistance.

On Saturday, the ministry “strongly condemned” Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel, “including against the civilian population, terrorist infiltrations and hostage-taking.” It said Israel has a sovereign right to defend itself.

China calls for the creation of a Palestinian state

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country is “deeply concerned over the current escalation of tensions and violence between Palestine and Israel.”

“The recurrence of the conflict shows once again that the protracted standstill of the peace process cannot go on,” the statement said. “The fundamental way out of the conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine.”

The Chinese foreign ministry said China would continue to work with the international community to find a way to bring about peace, and urged the community to act with greater urgency and help “facilitate early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel.”

Egypt intervenes over Israeli hostages

An Egyptian official says Israel has sought help from Cairo to ensure the safety of abducted Israelis, and Egypt’s intelligence chief had contacted Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group to seek information.

According to the official, Palestinian leaders claimed that they don’t yet have a “full picture” of hostages, but said those who were brought to Gaza were taken to “secure locations” across the territory.

“It’s clear that they have a big number — several dozens,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to brief media.

Egyptian intelligence also spoke with both sides about a potential cease-fire, he added, but Israel was not open to a truce “at this stage.”

Israeli official says hundreds of Hamas militants have been killed

An Israeli military official says “hundreds of terrorists” have been killed and dozens captured in fighting with Hamas militants in Gaza and southern Israel.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari spoke to reporters on Sunday, more than 24 hours after the Palestinian militant group launched an unprecedented assault into Israel, killing hundreds of people, firing thousands of rockets and taking captives back into blockaded Gaza.

Israel is battling militants in the south and launching airstrikes across Gaza that have leveled buildings.

Poland to evacuate its citizens from Israel

Poland will send military planes to evacuate its citizens from Israel, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Sunday, a day after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel.

"We are sending air force transport planes to carry out the evacuation of Poles currently staying in Israel. Soldiers from our special forces will ensure loading protection and safety on board," Duda wrote on X social media platform.

Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said Poland was sending two C-130 Hercules planes to evacuate some 200 Poles from Ben Gurion Airport.

It would add more planes if necessary or liaise with Greece to ferry Polish citizens to the Mediterranean country before bringing them home on Casa transport planes.

"We are in talks on establishing an evacuation bridge...with Greece," Blaszczak said at a press conference.

"We can expect these planes to take off any moment, arrive at their destination and pick up Polish tourists waiting at the airport," he added.

Israel-Hamas war

Jordan's Abdullah says escalating violence threatens region's security

Jordan's King Abdullah said on Sunday there was a need to intensify diplomatic efforts to prevent escalating Israel-Palestinian violence with "dangerous repercussions" for the region's security.

In comments made on state media, Abdullah said contacts with regional and international parties were underway to discuss "urgent international action to avoid an escalation and prevent the region from the consequences of a new round of violence."

Iran hailed the Palestinian attack

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi spoke with leaders of Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, official media said.

"Raisi discussed the developments in Palestine in separate phone calls with Ziyad Al Nakhalah, secretary general of the Islamic Jihad Movement, and Ismail Haniyah, the head of the (Hamas) political bureau," state news agency IRNA reported, without giving further details.

Iran hailed the Palestinian attack calling it a "proud operation" and a "great victory".

"This victorious operation, which will facilitate and accelerate the collapse of the Zionist regime, promises the impending destruction of the Zionist regime," said Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"I am congratulating this great and strategic victory, which is a serious warning to all compromisers in the region," he added in a letter to Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Saturday.

Biden offers support to Netanyahu

Joe Biden
At the White House, President Joe Biden went on national television to say Israel had the right to defend itself and issued a blunt warning to Iran and other nations hostile to Israel.

Western countries, led by the United States, denounced the attack.

At the White House, President Joe Biden went on national television to say Israel had the right to defend itself and issued a blunt warning to Iran and other nations hostile to Israel. "This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching," he said.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters that the United States was working with other governments to make sure the crisis does not spread and is contained to Gaza.

Long after nightfall, residents had yet to be given the all-clear to go home

Israeli police check the occupants of a vehicle near Ashkelon, Israel, on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. Fighting continued in southern Israel for a second day as Israeli Defence Forces sought to regain control of areas infiltrated yesterday by militants from the Gaza Strip. Photographer: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg Image Credit: Bloomberg

"It's not over because the (army) hasn't said the kibbutz is clear of terrorists," Dani Rahamim told Reuters by telephone from the shelter where he was still hiding in Nahal Oz, close to the Gaza fence. Gunfire had subsided but regular explosions could still be heard.

Hamas said it fired a fresh volley of 150 rockets toward Tel Aviv on Saturday evening in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that took down a high-rise with more than 100 apartments.

Gaza has been devastated by four wars and countless skirmishes between Hamas and Israel since the militants seized control of the strip in 2007. But the scenes of violence inside Israel itself were beyond anything seen there even at the height of the Palestinian Intifada uprisings of past decades.

Intelligence failure

As Israel reeled from a deadly attack by Hamas militants who broke through barriers around Gaza and roamed at will, killing scores of civilians in Israeli towns, defence chiefs faced growing questions over how the disaster could have happened.

A day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when Israeli forces were caught off guard by Syrian and Egyptian tank columns, the military appeared once again to have been surprised by a sudden attack. "It looks quite similar to what happened at that time," said retired General Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel's National Security Council. "As we can see it, Israel was completely surprised, by a very well-coordinated attack," he told a briefing with reporters.

An army spokesman said there would be discussions on the intelligence preparation "down the road," but for the moment, the focus was on fighting. "We'll talk about that when we need to talk about it," he told a briefing with reporters.

"This was an intelligence failure; it could not be otherwise," said Jonathan Panikoff, the US government's former deputy national intelligence officer on the Middle East, who is now at the Atlantic Council think tank. "It was a security failure, undermining what was thought to be an aggressive and successful layered approach toward Gaza by Israel," he said.

For Israelis, images of dead bodies lying in the streets or groups of civilians being driven or marched into captivity in Gaza came as a profound shock.

Backdrop of surging violence

Smoke rises after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in Ashkelon, southern Israel. Image Credit: AP

The escalation comes against a backdrop of surging violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where a Palestinian authority exercises limited self-rule, opposed by Hamas that wants Israel destroyed.

In the West Bank, there were clashes in several locations on Saturday, with stone-throwing youths confronting Israeli troops.

Four Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed. Palestinian factions called a general strike for Sunday.

Israel itself has been experiencing internal political upheaval, with the most right-wing government in its history attempting to overhaul the judiciary.