Early Saturday morning, members of armed groups from Gaza, primarily the military wing of Hamas, crossed into southern Israel. After overcoming Israeli soldiers on the border, they massacred Israeli civilians. Some gunmen attacked an outdoor, all-night dance party and sprayed partygoers with gunfire, leaving at least 260 dead according to the BBC. Others invaded homes in towns near the border with Gaza, killing some family members and taking others hostage. Social media videos showed men kidnapping families – men, women, children, older people – and parading them through the streets of Gaza. According to media reports, more than a hundred bodies were recovered from the farming community of Be’eri, where survivors have told reporters that Hamas gunmen set fire to homes to drive families out of locked shelters.
As cover for the attack, armed groups fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, damaging homes and killing and injuring civilians. The military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad say they are now holding 130 Israeli hostages. Yesterday, in a recorded message, Hamas’ armed wing threatened to execute hostages – this would be a flagrant war crime.
Searing images of grief and trauma have circulated widely on social media: of an Israeli woman, surrounded by gunmen, clutching her baby and toddler in her arms as fighters kidnapped her and reportedly took her into Gaza; of another mother who lost her grip on her 13-year old daughter and the girl, who has autism, was reportedly kidnapped to Gaza with her grandmother.
The Israeli government says 900 Israelis have been killed. Hundreds are civilians.
Following the assault, the Israeli military launched a massive bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip. Nearly 700 Palestinians have been killed, including 140 children, as of October 9, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. The Israeli authorities have also unlawfully cut electricity to Gaza’s 2.2 million residents and reduced water supply, exacerbating the impact of Israel’s more than 16-year illegal closure of Gaza and its crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians.
Deliberately killing civilians is a war crime, as is hostage-taking. All parties to the conflict are obliged to respect the laws of war. No matter what the other side does, no one has the right to target civilians.