October 7, 2023: Israel says it is 'at war' after Hamas surprise attack

By Andrew Raine, Chris Lau, Joshua Berlinger, Aditi Sangal, Thom Poole and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 8:21 p.m. ET, November 9, 2023
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6:13 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

Israel extends "special security situation" across entire territory 

From CNN's Lauren Izso and Jonny Hallam

Israel's Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant is pictured during a visit with his Greek counterpart in Athens on May 4, 2023.
Israel's Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant is pictured during a visit with his Greek counterpart in Athens on May 4, 2023. Menelaos Myrillas/SOOC/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Israel's Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant expanded the country's "special security situation" to the entirety of Israel's territory late Saturday, according to his communications office.

This enables the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to provide security instructions to civilians and to close public sites as needed for security, the minister's office said.

A “special security situation” area, within an 80-kilometer (48-mile) radius of the Gaza Strip, had been established earlier on Saturday.

Today we saw the face of evil. The Hamas (terrorist organization) has launched a brutal attack against the citizens of the State of Israel - attacking men, women, children, and the elderly, indiscriminately," Gallant said in a statement.

"Hamas will understand very quickly that it has made a mistake - a grave mistake and will pay a (heavy) price," he said.

Latest attacks: The defense minister's statement comes after Gaza militants fired a fresh round of rockets on Saturday evening, making direct hits on multiple locations inside Israel, including in Tel Aviv, according to Israeli authorities.

In a Telegram post, the armed wing of Hamas — the militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, and Israel — said it had fired an additional 150 rockets in response to the bombing of a residential tower in Gaza City.

A vow of change: In his statement, Gallant claimed he had been close to destroying Hamas 15 years ago, when he headed the military's Southern Command, but that he was stopped by "the political echelon."

"This phenomenon will not continue. We will change reality on the ground in Gaza for the next 50 years," he continued. "What was before will be no more. We will operate at full force."

"I ask Israel's citizens to remain determined and to support our security forces,” he added.

4:42 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

Analysis: Why didn’t Israel’s sophisticated border security stop Saturday’s attack?

Analysis by CNN's Joshua Berlinger

A man walks along a debris-strewn street in Tel Aviv, Israel, after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza on October 7.
A man walks along a debris-strewn street in Tel Aviv, Israel, after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza on October 7. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The gunmen came from air, sea and land. They shot at civilians, took hostages and forced families to barricade themselves indoors, fearing for their lives.

A day that began with air raid sirens blaring out in the early morning had by lunchtime turned into one of the most terrifying attacks Israel has known in the 75 years of its existence. Assailants from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip, had by nightfall killed hundreds of people and wounded hundreds more.

An attack with no warning: Though Israel is no stranger to terrorist attacks, Saturday’s assault was unprecedented – not least because of the lack of warning. Israel’s military on Saturday found itself caught off-guard, despite decades in which the country became a technology powerhouse that boasts one of the world’s most impressive armed forces and a premier intelligence agency.

The questions for Israeli authorities are legion. It has been more than 17 years since an Israeli soldier was taken as a prisoner of war in an assault on Israeli territory. And Israel has not seen this kind of infiltration of military bases, towns and kibbutzim since town-by-town fighting in the 1948 war of independence. How could a terror group from one of the world’s poorest enclaves manage to launch such a devastating attack?

A system failure: “The entire system failed. It’s not just one component. It’s the entire defense architecture that evidently failed to provide the necessary defense for Israeli civilians,” said Jonathan Conricus, a former international spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces.

“This is a Pearl Harbor type of moment for Israel, where there was reality up until today, and then there will be reality after today.”

Heavy investment in defense: Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it has spent billions of dollars securing the border from attacks. That has included striking at any weapons fired from Gaza into Israel, and stopping terrorists from trying to cross the border by air or underground using tunnels. To stop rocket attacks, Israel has used the Iron Dome, an effective rocket defense system developed with help from the United States.

Israel also spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a smart border system with sensors and subterranean walls that was, according to Reuters, completed at the end of 2021.

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Gaza, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel, on October 7.
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Gaza, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel, on October 7. Amir Cohen/Reuters

So far, officials have said little: Israeli authorities will almost certainly look at where its systems failed on Saturday, but the country has not yet released figures on how many of the more than 2,000 rockets fired by Hamas militants were intercepted. Nor have officials commented on if the border fence did its job. And the Israeli military has repeatedly dodged questions about whether Saturday’s events constitute an intelligence failure.

Military spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told CNN that Israel was focused on the current fight and protecting civilian lives.

“We’ll talk about what happened intelligence-wise after,” Hecht said.

Read more about Israel's security measures here.

4:20 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

Why the al-Aqsa mosque continues to be a flashpoint of tensions

 

Palestinians offer Eid al-Fitr prayers by the Dome of the Rock in the al-Aqsa compound on April 21, 2023.
Palestinians offer Eid al-Fitr prayers by the Dome of the Rock in the al-Aqsa compound on April 21, 2023. Mahmoud Illean/AP/FILE

The al-Aqsa compound is one of the most revered places in Islam and Judaism. The sacred grounds, known to Muslims as Al Haram Al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount have been a flashpoint of tensions between Israel and the Palestinians for decades. 

In a statement, Hamas said it had launched Saturday's "Al-Aqsa Storm" attack on Israel — which targeted hundreds of troops and civilians — in part to defend the holy site. 

Only Muslims are allowed to pray in the compound under a status quo arrangement originally reached more than a century ago. Non-Muslim visitors are allowed visits at certain times and only to certain areas of the complex. 

But many in the Muslims world fear that the right to be the sole worshipers there has been eroded and that the sites themselves are being threatened by a growing far-right Jewish movement and Israel’s far-right government. 

Clashes have frequently broken out at the site between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli forces. Police raided the compound several times over the last year. 

The complex lies in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state and which most of the international community considers to be occupied territory. Israel captured it from Jordan in its six-day war in 1967 and considers both East and West Jerusalem as its united, “eternal capital.”  

4:01 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

It's 11 p.m. in Tel Aviv. Here's what you need to know about Saturday's fighting between Israel and Hamas

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his country "at war," after Palestinian militants from Gaza fired a deadly barrage of rockets and sent gunmen into Israeli territory Saturday morning. In response, Israel launched air strikes on Gaza, and fighting has continued throughout the day.

The surprise attack and subsequent fighting marks a major escalation of the long-running conflict between the two sides.

Here's the latest developments:

Death toll: Israeli authorities say at least 200 people are dead and more than 1,400 wounded in Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinian authorities say at least 232 Palestinians have died, and more than 1,600 are wounded.

A fresh round of attacks: A new round of rockets fired by Gaza militants on Saturday evening made direct hits on multiple locations inside Israel, including in Tel Aviv, according to Israeli authorities. In a Telegram post, the armed wing of Hamas — the militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel — said it had fired an additional 150 rockets in response to the bombing of a residential tower in Gaza City.

Israelis captured: The Israel Defense Forces say Hamas has taken hostages and prisoners of war since it launched its surprise attack Saturday morning. The militant group claims it has dozens of captives. In videos geolocated and authenticated by CNN, Hamas fighters appear to take Israeli citizens and soldiers captive in and near Gaza.

What is Hamas saying: Senior Hamas member Saleh al-Arouri said the militant group, which runs Gaza, is "ready for the worst-case scenario, including a ground invasion, which will be the best for us to decide the ending of this battle."

What is Netanyahu saying: In a televised speech on Saturday evening carried by Reuters, Netanyahu said, "What happened today has never been seen in Israel. We will take mighty vengeance for this black day." He added, "Israel will reach every place Hamas is hiding," and warned residents of Gaza to leave now. He also commented on the captured Israelis. "I tell Hamas, you are responsible for wellbeing of captives. Israel will settle the score with anyone who harms them," Netanyahu said.

International reaction: President Joe Biden said in an address Saturday evening that the United States stands with Israel. The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET to address the situation. Countries and leaders from around the world reacted to the news, with many condemning the attacks and others calling for calm and restraint. Meanwhile, airlines have either canceled or dramatically reduced flights to Tel Aviv, and foreign offices and embassies are discouraging travel and advising caution to their nationals present in Israel.

4:02 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

Netanyahu: Today's attacks by Hamas are on a level that "has never been seen in Israel"

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

The Gaza militant attacks that have left at least 200 people dead and hundreds injured are unprecedented, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Saturday.

"What happened today has never been seen in Israel. We will take mighty vengeance for this black day," Netanyahu said in a televised speech from Israel's Government Press Office, which was carried by Reuters.

"Israel will reach every place Hamas is hiding," Netanyahu said, referring to the militant group behind the attacks. "I tell Gaza's people to leave those places now."

He also referred to the Israeli soldiers and civilians taken hostage by Hamas fighters.

"I tell Hamas, you are responsible for wellbeing of captives. Israel will settle the score with anyone who harms them," the prime minister said, according to Reuters.

3:14 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

This map shows the parts of Israel impacted by the surprise attack from Hamas on Saturday

From CNN's Renée Rigdon and Lou Robinson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is "at war" after Gaza militants launched a surprise attack Saturday morning, firing thousands of rockets and entering Israel by land, sea and air using paragliders. Fighting has carried on throughout the day.

Here's a look at where rockets launched by Hamas have landed:

3:34 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

Biden: "The United States stands with Israel"

US President Joe Biden gives an address from the White House in Washington, DC, on October 7.
US President Joe Biden gives an address from the White House in Washington, DC, on October 7. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

US President Joe Biden addressed the attack by Palestinian militants Saturday, saying, "The United States stands with Israel."

"There is never justification for terrorist attacks," Biden said in his remarks from the White House, where he condemned the militant group Hamas for launching a surprise attack on Israel early this morning.

He added that the US will have Israel's back. "We will make sure that they have the help their citizens need, and they can continue to defend themselves," the president said.

Biden said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said that his administration's support for Israel's security "is rock solid and unwavering."

"I told him the United States stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorists assaults," Biden said of his call with Netanyahu. "Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop."

The US president also discouraged other parties hostile to Israel from exploiting these attacks.

"The world is watching," he warned.
2:49 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

NOW: US President Biden addresses situation in Israel

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden is addressing the situation in Israel in remarks made from the White House.

He spoke earlier with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and emphasized that the US stands with Israel, according to both governments.

2:42 p.m. ET, October 7, 2023

UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Sunday on the fighting in Israel and Gaza

From CNN’s Richard Roth

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET to address the situation in the Middle East.

This comes after Brazil, which holds the current presidency of the council, called for such a meeting.