Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war against Hamas Saturday after the terrorist group launched missile strikes and an incursion, killing hundreds and taking hostages.
On Sunday, the U.S. Navy began moving warships and aircraft closer to Israel following the Hamas attacks.
Here are five things to know about the attack and its aftermath.
1. ‘This Is Our 9/11’
“This morning, on Shabbat and a holiday, Hamas invaded Israeli territory and murdered innocent citizens including children and the elderly,” Netanyahu said in a statement released to X (formerly Twitter) Saturday. “Hamas has started a brutal and evil war.”
Saturday marked the end of the Jewish festival of Sukkot, as well as the Sabbath, the day of rest proclaimed in Genesis 1 and ratified in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
Between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. Saturday local time, Hamas militants crossed into Israel, according to The New York Times’ timeline. Militants slaughtered Israelis and took some hostage as rockets spread devastation ahead of their incursion.
According to The Times of Israel, officials said Hamas killed at least 900 Israelis, wounded 2,200, and kidnapped more than 100. Hamas reportedly fired more than 2,000 rockets in that time. The Israel Defense Forces also says it “has killed more than 400 Palestinian terrorists, both in Israel and in strikes in Gaza,” according to The Times.
“They didn’t go for military targets—they went for civilians, they went for grandmothers, children, babies,” Israel Defense Forces international spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said in a video message Sunday. “The numbers are unprecedented.”
“The style of attack is barbaric,” Hecht added. “In a way, this is our 9/11.”
He explained that the Hamas fighters attacked a party near the Gaza strip and kidnapped a grandmother. “Everybody, nearly, in Israel, is affected by this.”
Hamas militants shot civilians at bus stops, on roads, and in their cars, photos show, according to Israeli experts who spoke to the Times of Israel. Videos reportedly show Israeli civilians, including women and children, getting abducted and taken to Gaza. Two videos raise concerns of sexual assault or rape.
Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesman, said, “Hamas was more barbaric and more brutal than ISIS,” referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Heritage Foundation experts tied the attack to Iran.
“We condemn the unprecedented and unprovoked terrorist attack on Israel coordinated by the Islamic Republic of Iran through its proxy Hamas,” Victoria Coates, vice president of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and Robert Greenway, director of the Center for National Defense, said in a joint statement Saturday. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
“Absent significant training, equipment, and intelligence capabilities supplied by Iran, Hamas would never have been able to have carried out such an operation,” Coates and Greenway noted.
2. The Declaration of War
“Since this morning, the State of Israel has been at war,” Netanyahu said Saturday.
“Our first objective is to clear out the hostile forces that infiltrated our territory and restore the security and quiet to the communities that have been attacked,” he added. “The second objective, at the same time, is to exact an immense price from the enemy within the Gaza Strip, as well. The third objective is to reinforce other fronts so that nobody should mistakenly join this war.”
Israel’s security cabinet voted to go to war for the first time since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The cabinet decision unlocks “significant military activities,” Netanyahu’s office told The Times of Israel.
3. The Counterattack
Israeli fighter jets hit their first targets in Gaza around 10:46 a.m. Saturday, according to The New York Times. The IDF sent troops to southern Israel to retake the towns seized by Hamas militants around noon.
On Sunday, the IDF reported that Israeli aircraft struck a launch site and the operational command center of the Hamas rocket system operatives right around midnight. Later that morning, Israeli aircraft struck two operational situation rooms, which Hamas operated inside of Gaza mosques. By 8 a.m., they had struck Hamas’ intelligence headquarters.
On Sunday, the U.S. Navy began moving warships and aircraft closer to Israel, a U.S. military official told Fox News Digital. The Pentagon has not clarified whether it would use military force to assist Israel in the conflict.
4. The World’s Response
The Biden administration rushed to condemn the Hamas attacks.
“The United States unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement released at 2:30 p.m. Israel time.
At 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, Biden addressed the American people, condemning the attack and proclaiming that his administration’s “support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”
“Today, the people of Israel are under attack, orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas,” he began.
Biden described some scenes: “Hamas terrorists crossing into Israel killing not only Israeli soldiers, but Israeli civilians in the street, in their homes. Innocent people murdered, wounded, entire families taken hostage by Hamas just days after Israel marked the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar. It’s unconscionable.”
The president said he had been in contact with the king of Jordan and had directed his team to “remain in constant contact” with leaders in Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian Authority.
Those countries did not condemn the Hamas attacks, but urged “restraint” on both sides, acting as if Israel had not suffered a brutal and unprovoked attack.
Arabs, Muslims, and some left-leaning protesters in the U.S. and Europe celebrated the Hamas attacks.
5. Criticisms of Biden
Analysts and political candidates suggested that Hamas would not have attacked Israel had Biden either not won the 2020 presidential election or had acted differently while in office.
“THE HORRIBLE ATTACK ON ISRAEL, MUCH LIKE THE ATTACK ON UKRAINE, WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WERE PRESIDENT – ZERO CHANCE!” former President Donald Trump posted Sunday on Truth Social. Trump is running for president in 2024, and enjoys a sizable lead over other candidates in the Republican primary.
Coates and Greenway, the Heritage analysts, blamed the Biden administration for enabling Iran to equip Hamas for the attacks.
“The Biden administration has to answer for its policy of appeasing Tehran and granting the regime unprecedented revenues through ransom and illicit oil sales—money that is flowing directly to terror attacks on Israel,” Coates and Greenway said.
“We’ve given them the oxygen they need to breathe, and with that comes support for their surrogates and proxies, including Hamas,” Greenway told Fox News on Saturday. “Most of the region look at this as though the United States were paying for it, and in a sense, they’re very correct.”
The Heritage analysts referred to a prisoner exchange deal that the Biden administration made with Iran. The Islamist regime freed five U.S. prisoners in exchange for a waiver giving Tehran access to $6 billion in oil revenue that U.S. sanctions had previously blocked.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC News that the U.S. has “not yet seen evidence” that Iran directly supported the Hamas attack, though he acknowledged Iran’s longstanding support for Hamas. Blinken denied that the $6 billion could have supported Hamas, claiming that Qatar currently holds the funds and will only grant Iran access to them for humanitarian purposes.
“As of now, not a single dollar has been spent from that account,” Blinken insisted.
Yet Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told the BBC that Iran supported the attack.
As for the $6 billion, critics have noted that money is fungible, and even if Iran uses the $6 billion only for humanitarian purposes, those funds will free up other assets for Iran to use to support Hamas.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another Republican 2024 candidate, condemned Blinken’s response.
“I actually think it was irresponsible for Secretary Blinken to say that the $6 billion doesn’t weigh in here,” Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, told “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I mean, let’s be honest with the American people and understand that Hamas knows and Iran knows they’re moving money around as we speak because they know $6 billion is going to be released. That’s the reality.”
“To think that they’re not moving money around is irresponsible,” she continued. “They hate Israel. They hate America. They are going to continue to use this. It was wrong to release the $6 billion.”
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.