"The worst crisis this country has faced in fifty years."
Hamas launches massive, astonishingly complex assault, invades Israeli towns. More than 250 killed. Netanyahu: "We are at war."
I’ll be updating this on the website throughout the day, so go to the CG page and bookmark this link.
UPDATE (21:20 Paris time)
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Ramadan-Yom Kippur War, also a surprise attack. The superpowers entered the fray, the Arab OPEC states hit the US with an embargo, many states broke relations with Israel. That war was a game-changer, permanently upending the post-1967 status quo.
The question: WTF is Hamas up to? Why have they launched this manifestly unprovoked attack? Previous rounds—2009-10, 2012, 2014, 2021—were initiated by Islamic Jihad or Israel itself.
Hamas wants to push Israel even more to the far right, which will isolate Israel diplomatically and deepen the divide in Israeli society (and with sizable numbers of secular Israelis—les forces vives of modern Israeli society and its high tech sector—leaving the country), and further empower fanatical West Bank settlers, who will carry out more pogroms against West Bank Palestinians, and who will react in kind.
West Bank Palestinians, East Jerusalemites, and Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCIs) will likely descend into the streets en masse to support Hamas. Israel will be up shit’s creek if this happens, especially with the PCIs.
Hamas will all but kill off the Palestinian Authority. Hamas will now rule the roost in the West Bank. Hamas will be as popular in Ramallah, East Jerusalem, etc. as Bruce Springsteen on the Jersey shore.
A big reason for the Hamas attack: to scuttle an Israeli-Saudi deal (brokered by the US), which would be hugely prejudicial to Hamas. N.B. Hamas will likely succeed in this.
Hamas is demonstrating its relative military might, which is reinforced after every round of the ongoing Gaza war. (It was likewise with Hizbullah). Fifteen years ago, Hamas, militarily speaking, was a joke. No longer. It is a serious fighting force, which is able to inflict major casualties on the IDF (as seen in the last two rounds). The IDF used to talk about “mowing the lawn” in Gaza; now it’s the IDF which gets mowed when it makes incursions into Gaza.
Hamas and the Gazawis are going to get the holy shit kicked out of them—the IDF will turn Hamas into hummus (quote from a friend)—but Hamas does not care, as it cares about its own people about as much as Vladimir Putin cares about his. The Israelis will kill thousands of civilians, thereby being credibly accused of war crimes in the court of global public opinion. A PR disaster for Israel.
In kicking the shit out of Gaza, the Israelis may feel they have no choice but to reoccupy at least part of the strip to find the dozens of hostages. But this will result in hundreds, even thousands, of IDF casualties. A catastrophe for Israel.
Preliminary conclusion: The Palestinian question is back on the front burner. And will stay there.
Preliminary conclusion 2: This will not end well. For anyone.
The death toll from the attack on Israel has risen to 200. The Israeli Health Ministry says 1,104 have been wounded.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that Israel is in a state of war, which means a state of emergency in Israel up to 80 km from the border of the Gaza Strip to the north and east. Reserve units were mobilized.
The IDF says it has killed hundreds of Palestinian terrorists in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip in the past few hours, and carried out a new wave of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
The useless UN Security Council will meet tomorrow.
There are over 20 locations of ongoing conflict in Israeli communities in southern Israel. IDF soldiers are currently engaged in direct combat with the terrorists.
As of 17:58 pm, Hamas was holding dozens hostages in Kibbutz Be’eri in the south and Ofakim. The IDF confirmed reports of hostages taken to Gaza. Not since 1948 have Arab forces invaded and held populated Israeli territories.
The IDF has regained control of the Re’im military base in southern Israel, which houses the Gaza Division.
Palestinian media outlets report that the Israeli Air Force bombed the home of Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says two have been killed in the West Bank, near Ramallah and near Jericho, reportedly in clashes with IDF troops.
The IDF will draft up to hundreds of thousands of reservists and will prepare on all fronts, including Israel’s northern border.
So far, international support for Israel has been overwhelming. In the US, Israel is receiving bipartisan support from the Biden Administration and Congress.
Energy Minister Yisrael Katz instructed the Israel Electric Corporation to halt the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip.
Hamas threatened to attack Tel Aviv following the bombing of the high-rise towers above.
Update: Building takes direct his in heavy rocket attack on Tel Aviv after tower block in Gaza bombed:
Multiple heavy barrages of rockets were fired towards southern Israel, the center of the country and as north as the Netanya area on Saturday evening with multiple interceptions of the Iron Dome missile defense system heard. A rocket made a direct hit on a Tel Aviv building and one man is reported trapped inside. Hamas said 150 rockets were launched.
Man sees video of his brother, partner kidnapped on video: “She screamed on the motorcycle, they were just taken to Gaza.” A nightmare.
Israel has been destroying launch sites of rockets meant for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hamas prefers to fire at these targets quickly before the Air Force strikes damage its launches, most of which are buried underground.
The parade below does not look spontaneous:
Olga Lautman: “Russia is so behind this attack in Israel along with its ally Iran.”
We call on the Palestinian and Israeli sides to implement an immediate ceasefire, renounce violence, exercise the necessary restraint and establish, with the assistance of the international community, a negotiation process aimed at establishing a comprehensive, lasting and long-awaited peace in the Middle East.
A short while ago, I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I told him that in this emergency situation, I’m willing to put aside our differences and form an emergency, narrow, professional government with him to manage the difficult and complex operation ahead of us.
The State of Israel is at war. It won’t be easy and it won’t be short. It has strategic consequences which we haven’t seen for many years. There is a serious risk that it will become a multi-front war.
Netanyahu knows that with the current extreme and dysfunctional security cabinet, he can’t manage a war. Israel needs to be led by a professional, experienced, and responsible government. I have no doubt that former Defense Minister [Benny] Gantz would also join a government like this.
Forming an emergency professional government will make clear to our enemies that the vast majority of Israeli citizens stand behind the IDF and security forces. It will make clear to the world, in the international community, that the people of Israel stand united against this threat.
Hams leader Mohamed Deif: “We warned the enemy. They attacked the Islamic movement and desecrated al-Aqsa. … Carry out your attacks on the settlements with all the means and tools at your disposal. Today everyone who has a rifle should take it out. It’s their time, and each of you should go out with your truck, vehicle or ax. Today, a new history has opened, a brighter and more honorable history.”
Hamas claimed to have fired more than 5,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Hamas declared it had started “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
Samuel Ramani: “Israeli sources estimate that 200-300 Hamas militants have entered the country. Some are in hiding. A sizable force deployment in tandem with the major terrorist attack on Israel.”
Celebrations erupted among Palestinians and other asylum-seekers in Greek refugee camps in response to the attack.
The Taliban has reportedly asked Iran for passage to Israel to help Hamas. They have allegedly asked for passage to “conquer Jerusalem” if Iran, Jordan and Iraq are willing to support their troops.
“Video shared on social media appears to show Hamas militants walking around an abandoned Israeli military base and capturing armored vehicles. Other videos, which could not be confirmed, show militants taking photos with captured tanks.”
Ian Bremmer: “This is Israel’s 9/11. Worse intelligence failure than in 1973, given balance of power. Hopefully Israeli response will be less misguided than the US War on Terror.”
Richard W. Painter: “One of our closest allies has been attacked. Is the Senate at least going to vote on nominations on senior officers in our military or is everything going to be held up while we argue about abortion?”
Last week, senior IDF officers and officials in Israel’s security establishment assessed that Hamas wanted to avoid a full-fledged war with Israel.
The attack on Israel conjures up memories of other infiltration attempts, such as the effort Hamas put into building tunnels before 2014; and the attack that resulted in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in June 2006. … In 2014 Hamas also attempted a seaborne commando raid near Kibbutz Zikim, east of Gaza. … Despite many conflicts with Israel over the years and Israel’s increased investment in security on the border using new technology, Hamas was able to launch a massive surprise attack, once again, on a country celebrating one of its most significant religious festivals.
Biden called Netanyahu to express support. Netanyahu thanked him and warned him that a “prolonged and powerful campaign” will be required. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon will work in the coming days to make sure Israel has the means to protect itself.
Biden also said, “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation.” I think he meant to say, “The United States warns any other party hostile to Israel not to seek to take advantage of this situation.” But I’m genuinely not sure, and the problem is, neither is the party in question.
… The main danger is from the Lebanese border and therefore, alongside the effort to contain the attack in the south, the intelligence community must direct resources to the north. Recently, there have been hints, mainly from Lebanon, that there is an intention to carry out a coordinated offensive by Hezbollah and the Gazan organizations. The second main effort of the IDF in general and of the Air Force in particular, after clearing the area of the terrorists who infiltrated Israeli territory, is to prevent them from kidnapping and transferring more hostages and bodies of Israelis to Gaza. …
It seems that Hamas intends to continue intense fire as long as it can. It sees the event as an opportunity, perhaps its last, to establish its position as the leader of the Palestinian camp in the fight against Israel. This operation is not intended to extort economic benefits from Israel, but to make Hamas the dominant party in the Palestinian arena in preparation for the departure of Mahmoud Abbas, and especially in view of what the Gazans recognize as the weakness of the State of Israel and its inability to respond.
In Hamas’ point of view, this is about taking advantage of a strategic opportunity and in its response the State of Israel must clarify its mistake even at the cost of life and destruction of property that it will exact on the Gaza Strip.
Yom Kippur II. The region will change after this war in ways we can’t know. There will be many dead. In the end, Israel will prevail:
This was the doomsday scenario we drilled in IDF military exercises over the last decade and a half: terrorists infiltrate Israel en masse, take over entire Israeli towns, kill civilians and take others hostage for later negotiations. Incessant rocket fire, chaos and fog-of-war on the Israeli side.
This scenario played out exactly today—the only difference was the military scenario envisioned Hezbollah attacking from the north, not Hamas from Gaza. No one thought Hamas had such capacity, especially with the intelligence coverage by Israel’s Shabak and IDF Intelligence. …
A few initial points:
This was a colossal intelligence and operational failure of the IDF and the security services. Not only did the incursion come as a total surprise, but the border barrier and other means of sealing off the Gaza Strip collapsed.
Israel is at war. Tens of thousands of reservists are being called up now. There is a real danger Hezbollah may join the war, and that would turn this into one of Israel’s greatest wars.
Israel will have to conquer large parts of Gaza—both to restore its deterrence (otherwise Hezbollah will be tempted to attack Israel in a similar fashion in the future), and as leverage for the release of Israeli hostages.
The international public opinion, initially sympathetic to Israel, will sour soon—with days, or a week or two—especially as Israel deepens its operation in Gaza. Jewish communities abroad should be prepared for an onslaught of hate in the coming month.
The disunity in Israel created by the legislative overhaul weakened Israel’s deterrence and likely played a role in Hamas’ calculation to attack. Separately, talks of peace with Saudi Arabia may also have put pressure on Hamas and the axis of evil led by Iran to launch war in an effort to torpedo normalization that would have left them isolated in the Arab and Muslim world.
David Brinn: The political fighting between the Left and Right over the judicial reform will be put aside amid a wash of solidarity:
Following the surprise attack by Hamas Saturday morning, Simchat Torah, on an unsuspecting Israel, there is clarity. The nation and its citizens will prevail. The army will retaliate with its vast resources. Reservists in the massive call up will show up and defend their country. The pilots will fly their missions regardless of their earlier declarations.
The bitter political fighting between the Left and Right over the judicial reform will be put aside amid a wash of solidarity. The government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will step up and do whatever is necessary. The weekly protests against the government will be put on hold.
Whether via massive air attacks or a costly ground invasion, the IDF will make Hamas pay. The international community, led by the US and EU, will call for a ceasefire. The fighting will stop. Eventually, there will be a new “normal,” whether Hamas is toppled or remains in power.
And then, there must be accountability.
And a realization that the government of Israel, obsessed with its remaking of the legal system and society, and drunk with power, does not have the best interests of the country at heart. Incompetent and arrogant, they brought us to this day.
After the fighting, it will be time for reckoning.
At 6:06 am, Paris time, my dear friend Judith Levy, who lives in Raanana, outside of Tel Aviv, sent me this message:
Rocket attack this morning. The sirens went off in Raanana at 6:30 am. They've stopped here, but I think Tel Aviv is still hearing them. I understand there's a huge rocket barrage underway toward the center and south.
Life continues to be interesting here.
At 7:06 am, she sent this:
Jesus fucking Christ. If what I’m hearing about this attack is true, it’s the most serious in decades.
I slept late this morning, unusually. I didn’t look at my computer until nearly 10:30 am. When I read her emails, I checked the news and learned it was even worse than she thought.
She sent this at 1:00 pm:
I don’t know yet how many of these details are true. What I can say for sure is that it’s impossible to overstate the gravity of what's happening. This was an intelligence failure of a magnitude to rival 1973.
There is also a sickening inevitability to it. We’ve all been looking at each other nervously for months, knowing full well that the incredible weakness we’ve been busily projecting to the whole world was being noted by our worst enemies. Of course something like this was in the works; the real question is how our intelligence services missed imminent plans on this scale. It suggests, as if we needed any more evidence, that there is a profound rot at the top, one we simply can’t afford in this country.
There are reports of about 20 Israelis dead so far. Israeli civilians are dying as I type this inside their own homes in gunfights with Palestinian terrorists who have stormed their towns. I don’t think I have words adequate to describe how this makes one feel as a citizen and resident of this country.
The most terrifying part is that Hamas has apparently snatched an as yet unknown number of hostages and dragged them into Gaza. Remember that last time they did that, they took one single Israeli, Gilad Shalit, held him for five years, and finally gave him back in exchange for over 1,000 terrorists. If the reports right now are true, we are now living our worst nightmare. We found in the last few operations that they have been preparing for years to infiltrate the border communities and drag multiple Israelis back with them at once—motorcycles, handcuffs, zip ties at the ready in the tunnels. We hit the hell out of the tunnels in response, but today they pulled it off anyway, if what I’m hearing is true.
It appears they’ve got both soldiers and civilians as hostages inside Gaza now. And according to reports, they took dead Israelis too.
This is all unbelievably bad, but it could get a hell of a lot worse. I greatly fear that Hezbollah will get the green light from Tehran and hit us from the north while all this is going on. Strategically speaking, it’s a major opportunity from their point of view, one I’d be surprised if they passed up. I hope this is just my usual wartime pessimism kicking in, but frankly I don’t know why they wouldn’t at least test the waters if not much worse than that.
I honestly don’t know if we can handle a multi-front war with the level of armament Hezbollah has in its possession and its level of experience and expertise. They have well over 100,000 missiles aimed to cover this entire country. If they wanted to, they could light up Haifa, Tel Aviv, Raanana, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Beersheva simultaneously. I can’t begin to imagine how we could fight such a war effectively without taking steps that Israel is not allowed to take (and frankly probably wouldn’t be inclined to take, although with some of the thugs currently in power, who knows). What’s happening in the south is the worst crisis this country has faced in fifty years. If we’re hit from the north as well, it’s hard for me to see how we stay standing.
Reports now say at least 40 dead Israelis, about 750 wounded, and possibly dozens of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas, if what they're claiming is true. No confirmation of that yet, but kidnapping on some scale has happened. Gunfights are still going on in the streets in Sderot ten hours after the infiltration, which is itself unbelievable.
I’m frightened for her and her family.
In southern Israel Palestinian terrorists are going house-to-house shooting civilians, including in front of children, and uploading photos to their Telegram channel. Israelis are begging security forces for help.
Israel IDF’s Major General Ghasan Alyan: “Hamas has opened the gates of hell into the Gaza Strip. Hamas made the decision and Hamas will bear the responsibility and pay for its deeds.”
Israeli Commander Nimrod Aloni has apparently been captured, meaning Hamas not only made it very deep into the country, but back. Aloni is head of the Israeli IDF Depth Corps and Military Colleges.
Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht: “By the end of today, there will be no more living terrorists left in Israel.”
Senior Lieutenant of the Israeli Defense Forces Yigal Levin: “There is a high probability that the invasion from the Gaza Strip is just a diversionary maneuver, and a much more powerful invasion will follow from the north, by Hezbollah forces.”
“Israel has completely lost control of settlements near Gaza, Hamas is straight up carrying off Israeli captives, a mix of civilian and military, men and women alike.”
Channel 12 reporter: “Hamas now controls several population centers in southern Israel. I can’t believe I’m saying this. The residents are begging for help.”
Hamas terror commander Deif calls for all out war on Israel. Deif called on Palestinians to attack Israel with whatever weapons they could find.
General Rahim Safavi, one Khamenei’s top military advisors, said that Iran supports the attack.
“Israel seems completely unprepared for the new style of war with cheap drones turning old mortar shells into precision bombs. Here, Hamas released footage shows a drone dropping a shell onto Israel troops fighting from what they thought was cover.” I have not confirmed the authenticity of the video.
There are unconfirmed reports that Hezbollah has threatened to invade Israel from Lebanon if Israel launches a ground offensive against Gaza The Egyptian government, allegedl,y passed on the information from Hezbollah to Israel. (Hezbollah is an Iranian tool.)
The terror group also published a video showing it dropping a bomb from a drone on a military ambulance near the Gaza border, wounding Israeli troops. A fourth video shows a young Israeli woman getting pushed into a truck by militants.
World leaders condemn Hamas violence, call for attacks to stop. Egypt issued a warning of “grave consequences” from escalating tensions and called for “maximum restraint and avoiding exposing civilians to further danger.”
Terrorists have taken hostages inside a house in Ofakim, a city in the South of Israel. Armed with grenades, negotiations are currently underway.
Juliette Kayam: “To call this an intelligence failure is too simple. Every single piece of defense—air, land, water—failed. It is inexplicable to those of us who have worked with them or know their capacity.”
As rocket and mortar attacks continued, the IDF confirmed what was unfolding: dozens of terrorists had infiltrated into Israel—some by land, some by air on hang-gliders, and, reportedly, some by sea. Israel’s sophisticated border fence along the Gaza border—a barrier the IDF believed to constitute hermetic protection—had been breached in several places, Army Radio reported. …
Even as Israel’s political chiefs began to convene in emergency consultations, with the full extent of the infiltration and its consequences still unfolding, Hebrew media began quoting unnamed officials castigating the political and military echelons for the fact that Israel, preoccupied with internal argument, had again been taken by surprise.
The IDF’s assumption, in recent years, was that Hamas was deterred from carrying out major attacks in Israel—fearing the potency of Israel’s response, and wary of plunging Gaza into renewed devastation. All too evidently, that assumption was unfounded. …
“All of Israel is asking itself: Where is the IDF, where is the police, where is the security?” agreed Eli Maron, the former head of the Israeli Navy, alongside him in the studio. “It’s a colossal failure; the hierarchies have simply failed, with vast consequences.”
So much for normalization: From the Saudi Foreign Ministry: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia holds Israel responsible for what has transpired due to its repeated provocations and deprivation of the rights of Palestinians.”
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