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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9:24 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

IDF spokesman says he hopes “there will be no more live terrorists in Israel” by end of the day

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmood in London 

Israeli soldiers work to secure residential areas following a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen in Sderot, southern Israel, on October 7.
Israeli soldiers work to secure residential areas following a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen in Sderot, southern Israel, on October 7. Ammar Awad/Reuters

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Richard Hecht told CNN on Saturday that he hopes by the end of the day Saturday, there will be no more live terrorists in Israel.

We are very much focused on saving forces, where there is ongoing fighting as we speak and handling these terrorists, hopefully by the end of the day there will be no more live terrorists inside Israel,” Hecht said in an interview with CNN.

To secure the area for civilians, special forces are fighting in various locations and firefighters and taking control and cleaning some areas, he added.

Additionally, "tens of thousands" of Israeli reservists have been called up to help since the offensive began early on Saturday, Hecht said.

When asked how Israel is securing infiltration routes, Hecht said, “We are fully deployed and focused on air coverage to see what is happening, we deployed forces to the infiltration points and again we are slowly securing the area and trying to take care of all these people that came in.”

The IDF is concerned about a possible attack coming from the northern countries of Lebanon or Syria, Hecht said. “We are ready in the north [in] case there is some Palestinian faction, in case they decide to come into it we will be ready, something we are looking at and we are ready for it.”

9:28 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

PM Netanyahu will speak soon with US President Biden, according to officials

From CNN staff

U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on October 5, in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on October 5, in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to speak soon, multiple officials familiar with the matter say. 

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has been in touch with his Israeli counterpart about the situation in Israel, a senior Biden administration official says. Officials at the National Security Council at all levels are reaching out to their counterparts as well.

Meanwhile, here's what how some other nations are reacting:

UAE: The foreign ministry in a statement stressed the need to “stop escalation” between Palestinians and Israelis and “preserve human lives.” 

“The UAE calls for the exercise of maximum restraint and an immediate ceasefire to avoid dangerous repercussions,” the statement published on state-run WAM said. 

Spain: Foreign minister José Manuel Albares said Spain strongly condemns “the very serious terrorist attacks from Gaza against Israel” and said he is “overwhelmed by this indiscriminate violence.” 

“All our solidarity with the victims. Spain is firmly committed to peace, security and stability in the region,” he said in a post on X, formerly known at Twitter.

Italy: "The Italian government is closely following the brutal attack taking place in Israel. It condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing terror and violence against innocent civilians and supports Israel's right to defend itself. Terror will never prevail," the Italian presidency said.

8:47 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

 All educational facilities closed in Israel Sunday

From CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem

Educational facilities across Israel will be closed on Sunday, the country's education ministry said.

The standard work week in Israel is Sunday through Thursday.

9:11 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

BREAKING: At least 40 dead, 779 wounded since Hamas incursion

From CNN's Amir Tal in Jerusalem

At least 40 people have been killed since Hamas launched its Saturday morning surprise attack on Israel, the country's emergency service said.

Another 779 people have been wounded, according to the Israeli Health Ministry.

8:36 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

IDF releases video of what it says are aerial attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza

From CNN’s Ibrahim Dahman in Gaza and Stephanie Halasz in London

Israeli Defense Forces
Israeli Defense Forces

The Israel Defense Forces have released video of what it says are airstrikes on Hamas in Gaza in the last few hours.

Aerial video of the missile attacks released by the IDF show the powerful explosions caused by the strikes. Among the targets are what appear to be a power line and several individuals running

Inside Gaza, the roar of Israeli warplanes could be heard followed by loud explosions and rising plumes of black smoke.

Gaza's streets on Saturday have been mostly devoid of cars and people. Streets were empty as people had gathered in shops, bakeries and gas stations to load up on supplies.

 

8:31 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

Israel aims to "exact a huge price" from Hamas in its response to Saturday's incursion

From CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, holds a meeting with security cabinet in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 7.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, holds a meeting with security cabinet in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 7. Haim Zach/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hopes Israel's response to the Hamas incursion on Saturday will "exact a huge price" from the militant group.

Speaking at the beginning of a political-security cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the following:

 

"Since this morning, the State of Israel has been at war. Our first goal is first of all to cleanse the area of the enemy forces that have infiltrated and restore security and peace to the towns that were attacked.
 
The second goal, at the same time, is to exact a huge price from the enemy, also in the Gaza Strip. The third goal is to fortify other arenas so that no one makes the mistake of joining this war.
 
We are at war, in war you have to keep calm. I call on all citizens of Israel to unite, to achieve our highest goal -- victory in the war.'

 

8:25 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

US officials watching explosion of violence in Israel with alarm

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

American officials are watching with alarm the large-scale attack on Israel from Gaza as they work to assess the exploding conflict. 

“I condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. I am in contact with Israeli officials, and fully support Israel's right to defend itself from such terrorist acts,” wrote the top American diplomat in Israel, Stephanie Hallett, on social media.

US President Joe Biden, who last spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netayanhu during a meeting in September, has long defended Israel’s right to defend itself and was expected to closely monitor the conflict throughout the day.

Still, the outburst of violence comes at an extremely sensitive moment in US-Israel relations. It would appear on its surface to complicate a growing effort by the Biden administration to broker a normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Top Biden officials had been working for months to mediate such an agreement, which would transform the region but is also expected to include some type of concessions to the Palestinians, who have been watching the talks with concern. 

The barrage of rockets from Gaza and Netanyahu’s declaration that “we are at war” now threaten that deal.

The broad contours of the deal had been mostly hammered out, but there remained sticking points and US officials had suggested there remained a long way to go before it was finalized.

Saudi Arabia has traditionally been one of the main regional defenders of the Palestinian cause.

Biden’s current relationship with Netanyahu is also in a different place than it was during the last major outbreak of violence between Gaza and Israel, in 2021. 

Back then, Biden and his aides sought to contain the conflict from breaking out into larger war, including in regular phone calls between the two leaders.

It also included intensive, hour-by-hour behind-the-scenes diplomacy to convince regional players, including the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, to play a role in brokering an eventual ceasefire.

Since then, there have been strains in the two men’s relationship, driven mostly by decisions taken by Netanyahu and his far-right governing coalition.

Biden’s meeting with Netanyahu in September on the sidelines of the UN meetings was their first face-to-face since Netanyahu retook power earlier this year. He is expected to visit the White House in the coming months.

8:24 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

How the world is reacting to the fighting in Israel

World leaders are reacting to Hamas' surprise attack on Israel Saturday morning. Many are, as has been the case during previous conflicts, calling for calm and restraint.

Here's what's being said in the Middle East:

Egypt: Often the mediator between the two sides, Egypt is already trying to find a way to stop the bloodshed. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said he is in “intensive” communication with peers and international officials to "halt the ongoing escalation," the ministry said in a statement.

Turkey: Speaking at a political conference, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country calls on "the parties to act with restraint in light of the events in Israel this morning and to stay away from impulsive steps that will escalate tension."

Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom said it is closely following the “unprecedented” situation and called on “both sides to immediately stop the escalation. The Saudi Foreign Miinstry said in a statement that it is repeating its "previous repetitive warnings of the dangers of the situation blowing up as a result of the continuing occupation and depriving the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights."

Iran: An adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed support for the Palestinian militant attack on Israelis on Saturday, Iranian state-affiliated ISNA said.

Here's how European Union officials have reacted:

Ursula von der Leyen: The President of the European Commission said on X, previously known as Twitter, that she "unequivocally" condemns the attack. "It is terrorism in its most despicable form. Israel has the right to defend itself against such heinous attacks.” 

Charles Michel: The President of the European Councila also condemned the “indiscriminate attacks launched against Israel and its people this morning inflicting terror and violence against innocent citizens. My thoughts are with all the victims. EU stands in solidarity with Israeli people in this horrific moment.” 

What some European leaders are saying on X:

French President Emmanuel Macron: "I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks which are currently hitting Israel. I express my full solidarity with the victims, and their families and loved ones."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “Shocking news reaches us today from Israel. The rocket fire from Gaza and the escalating violence shock us deeply. Germany condemns these Hamas attacks and stands by Israel.” 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: “I am shocked by this morning's attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli citizens. Israel has an absolute right to defend itself. We're in contact with Israeli authorities, and British nationals in Israel should follow travel advice.” 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “Appalling images from Israel. Terror organisation Hamas is waging an unprecedented attack on Israel. Innocent civilians are being attacked by terrorists. This violence must stop; Israel has every right to defend itself.”

Russia and Ukraine weigh in:

Both sides in the Ukraine war have also commented.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister and Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov told RIA Novosti on Saturday that Russia is in contact with Israeli and and Palestinian officials and calls on both sides for an immediate ceasefire. 

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Ukraine “strongly condemns the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel, including rocket attacks against the civilian population in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.” 

“We express our support for Israel in its right to defend itself and its people,” it added. 

7:16 a.m. ET, October 7, 2023

What it looks like on the ground in Israel

Photographs from across Israel show how the Saturday morning attack from Gaza has upended life in Israel as far north as Tel Aviv.

Rockets are fired from Gaza Strip into Israel on October 7, 2023.
Rockets are fired from Gaza Strip into Israel on October 7, 2023. Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Israeli fire brigade teams douse the blaze in a parking lot outside a residential building following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on October 7, 2023.
Israeli fire brigade teams douse the blaze in a parking lot outside a residential building following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on October 7, 2023. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

A man takes shelter by a wall as a siren sounds and rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip, in Mevaseret Zion, Israel, on October 7, 2023.
A man takes shelter by a wall as a siren sounds and rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip, in Mevaseret Zion, Israel, on October 7, 2023. Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Residents leave their homes in Tel Aviv on October 7, 2023, after a barrage of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
Residents leave their homes in Tel Aviv on October 7, 2023, after a barrage of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

An Israeli woman donates blood at a hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 7, 2023.
An Israeli woman donates blood at a hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 7, 2023. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

A remnant of a rocket launched from Gaza lies on the ground, in Ashkelon, Israel, on October 7, 2023.
A remnant of a rocket launched from Gaza lies on the ground, in Ashkelon, Israel, on October 7, 2023. Amir Cohen/Reuters