Red alert warning sirens were activated in Tel Aviv, Sde Boker, Arad, and Dimona in the south as explosions were heard by residents on Saturday. In al-Quds, rocket sirens sounded followed by the sound of explosions.
Hamas’ armed wing said more than 5,000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Saturday, declaring it had started “Operation al-Aqsa Flood”.
Gaza-based Islamic Jihad said its fighters have joined the operation as Hamas called on Palestinians everywhere to fight and on resistance groups in Lebanon also to join the fighting against Israel.
“We decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation, their time for rampaging without being held accountable is over,” Hamas said. “We announce Operation al-Aqsa Flood and we fired, in the first strike of 20 minutes, more than 5,000 rockets.”
| Deputy Head of Hamas Political Bureau of Hamas, Saleh al-Arouri: Operation Storm is a battle to attack the Zionist enemy and respond to its crimes.
— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish)
Senior Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif said, “This is the day of the greatest battle end the last occupation on earth.”
He said Palestinian resistance fighters struck numerous Israeli targets, including airports and military facilities.
“Today, the wrath of our nation and righteous fighters is boiling over. This is your day to make the enemy understand that its time has come to an end,” the top commander stated.
The Magen David Adom emergency medical services said an Israeli was killed “due to a direct hit” and 15 others were injured in southern Israel.
Palestinian sources, however, reported the death of a number of Israeli soldiers and settlers. One video near the separation wall purportedly showed a Merkava tank on fire, with several Palestinian youths perched on top.
One video circulating on social media showed large black plumes of smoke and fires from a suspected impact site in Ashkelon.
In Gaza the roar of rocket launches could be heard and residents reported armed clashes along the separation fence with Israel, near the southern town of Khan Younis, and said they had seen significant movement of armed fighters.
Israel’s ambulance service said teams had been dispatched to areas in southern Israel near Gaza and residents were warned to stay inside.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and minister for military affairs Yoav Gallant were set to hold meetings with top security officials soon, their offices said.
Gallant said he had approved call-up of military reservists, as the military said the regime was on a war footing.
On Friday, Israeli military forces attacked hundreds of Palestinians attending the funeral procession of a young Palestinian man in the West Bank, injuring more than 50 people.
According to Palestinian media outlets, the crowd was mourning the 19-year-old Labib Dumaidi, who in the early hours of Friday succumbed to injuries sustained in a raid by Israeli settlers on the town of Huwara, south of Nablus.
Local sources said the Israeli forces attacked Palestinians with live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to prevent them from continuing the procession.
The reports said 51 citizens were injured, including 19 citizens who were hit with rubber bullets, two of them in the head, and three who were hit with live bullets in the foot.
Israel has escalated its violence against Palestinians recently, particularly after a right-wing cabinet led by Benjamin Netanyahu came to power.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed this year in the occupied Palestinian territories and Gaza. The majority of these fatalities have been recorded in the West Bank.
The United Nations said 2023 is the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since it began keeping track of fatalities almost two decades ago.
Previously, 2022 had been the deadliest year with 150 Palestinians killed, of whom 33 were minors, according to the UN.