Hamas launches major attack on Israel with border crossing and rocket barrage

The Palestinian movement Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years on Saturday in a surprise assault that combined gunmen crossing the border with a heavy barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif announced the start of the operation in a broadcast on Hamas media, calling on Palestinians everywhere to fight.

A video obtained by Reuters showed Palestinians taking out what appears to be a dead body of an Israeli soldier from a tank, while Palestinians cheering on the borders between Gaza and Israel.

As warning sirens sounded across southern and central Israel, including in Jerusalem, Israel’s military said it was on a war footing as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of security officials.

Saturday’s incident marked an unprecedented infiltration by Hamas gunmen into Israel from Gaza, and was the most serious escalation since Israel and Hamas fought a 10-day war in 2021.

Israeli media reported gunbattles between bands of Palestinian fighters and security forces in towns in southern Israel. In Gaza, people rushed to buy supplies in anticipation of days of conflict ahead.

Palestinian media also reported that a number of Israelis had been taken captive by fighters and Hamas media circulated video footage apparently showing a destroyed Israeli tank.