Hamas, the group that rules the besieged Gaza Strip, announces the start of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood against Israel, Al Jazeera reported.
He claims to have fired thousands of rockets towards Israel.
Israeli Army Radio also reports that Palestinian fighters from Gaza have “infiltrated” Israel.
The unprecedented offensive began minutes before 7 a.m. as Israelis celebrated the final day of the week-long holiday of Sukkot with hundreds of rockets fired into Israel, according to Press TV.
Red alert sirens were activated in Tel Aviv, Sde Boker, Arad and Dimona in the south as explosions were heard by residents on Saturday. In al-Quds, rocket sirens rang out, followed by sounds of explosions.
Cars were seen on fire after a rocket landed in Ashkelon, southern Israel.
Hamas’ military wing said more than 7,000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on Saturday, declaring it had launched “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
“We have decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation, their time of rampage without accountability is over,” Hamas said. “We announce Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and we fired, in a 20-minute first strike, more than 5,000 rockets.”
Occupation forces are fighting Hamas fighters in seven locations in southern Israel, near the fence with the Gaza Strip.
The fighting is taking place in and around the towns of Kfar Aza, Sderot, Sufa, Nahal Oz, Magen, Beeri and the Re’im military base, the Times of Israel reported.
Images show armed men on vehicles in Israel; there is also footage of Palestinian fighters taking Israelis hostage.
At least 40 Israelis dead, 750 injured
Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, says the Israeli government has confirmed that the number of Israelis killed rose to at least 40.
The previous number, communicated by emergency services, was 22.
“More than 750 Israelis were injured,” our correspondent said, adding that the figure was expected to continue to rise.
Israeli police in the Southern District said fighting was likely to continue in the coming days.
“This will probably last for days. Some of the victims are police officers,” police said, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The newspaper added that rocket sirens continued to sound in Israeli areas near the border fence and in the southern town of Sderot.
Saturday’s events ‘game changer’ for region’s politics, analyst says
Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor at Qatar University, says the events of the past few hours have been a “game changer for politics in the region.”
“For the first time, the resistance movement has decided to react against the occupiers and the army… I think the Israeli side now faces a real challenge in attacking its image. The narrative created by Hamas with regional and international actors is also interesting,” he said.
Local Israeli official killed in exchange of fire
The head of a regional council for the Israeli border areas in the northeast of the Gaza Strip was killed in an exchange of fire, according to the council.
“The chairman of the regional council, Ofir Liebstein, was killed during an exchange of fire with terrorists,” the Shaar Negev regional council said in a statement.
Palestinians at the Erez crossing
Photos show Palestinians entering the Erez crossing, or Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli army announced it had lost control of it.
Israeli vehicles were also confiscated from Israeli sites near the Gaza Strip fence.
For years, residents of the Gaza Strip have had to deal with unemployment, power cuts and hardship caused by the Israeli blockade.
The 365 km² (141 square mile) area has also had to withstand numerous Israeli aggressions over the past seven years, the latest taking place in September when Israel used drones and a tank to attack protesters, injuring 22 people.
In June 2007, Israel imposed a sealed territory, sea and air blockade over the area and controls Gaza’s airspace, territorial waters and two of the three border crossing points; the third is controlled by Egypt.
Unemployment increased from 23.6 percent before the blockade to 47 percent at the end of 2022. The poverty rate also increased from 40 percent in 2005 to 61.6 percent in 2022. according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Observatory, based in Geneva.
Residents must endure power outages on average 12 hours per day, especially during periods of intense demand in the warmer months.
Events are ‘a decisive response to Israel’s continued occupation’: Hezbollah
The Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah said it was monitoring the situation in Gaza and was “in direct contact with the leaders of the Palestinian resistance.”
He said recent events constitute “a decisive response to Israel’s continued occupation and a message to those seeking normalization with Israel.”
“Attack a huge shock for Israelis”
Reporting from Ashkelon in southern Israel, Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds says the unprecedented attack has left Israelis in “tremendous shock.”
“I spoke via text message with an acquaintance in Tel Aviv. She said she was rushing into a bomb shelter. The fact that several villages, including some towns, were attacked and captured is something that has never happened before,” Reynolds said.
“This required a lot of planning and strategy on the part of Hamas,” he noted.
“It is also (near the anniversary) of the 1973 October War, when Israel was taken by surprise by Egypt and Syria. There seems to be some symbolism there,” he added.
Israeli schools will be closed on Sunday
Israel’s Education Ministry said all kindergartens and schools would remain closed across the country on Sunday, expanding a previously announced decision.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian people had the right to defend themselves against the “terror of settlers and occupying troops”, WAFA news agency quoted the Palestinian Authority as saying. WAFA news agency.
The Fatah leader chaired an emergency leadership meeting attended by civilian and security officials, during which he gave instructions to ensure the protection of Palestinians.