The Israeli government formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday, setting the stage for a massive response against the Islamist militant group.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already said Saturday the country was at war — but that declaration was rhetorical. Sunday’s move by the Israeli cabinet is an official decision, tantamount to a declaration of war by Congress in the United States.
The war declaration was taken in accordance with Article 40 of Israel’s Basic Law, the Israeli government press office said. Israel does not have a written constitution, but its 13 Basic Laws serve a similar function.
Netanyahu said before Sunday’s declaration that Israel would “take mighty vengeance” for the attack by Palestinian militants, while the country’s top military official in charge of activities in the Palestinian territories said after the attacks that Hamas has "opened the gates of hell." Israel has been pounding Gaza with airstrikes, which have killed more than 300 people.