Hamas launches surprise attack as gunmen enter Israel

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Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years today in a surprise assault that combined gunmen crossing the border with a heavy barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip.

As warning sirens sounded across southern and central Israel, including in Jerusalem, Israel’s military said it was on a war footing as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of security officials.

Saturday’s incident was the most serious since Israel and Hamas fought a 10-day war in 2021, with Israeli media reporting gunbattles between bands of Palestinian fighters and security forces in towns in southern Israel.

Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif announced the start of the operation in a broadcast on Hamas media, calling on Palestinians everywhere to fight.

“This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” he said, adding that 5 000 rockets had been launched.

One Israeli woman was killed, according to emergency services, as ambulance crews were deployed in areas around the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said its forces were operating inside Gaza but gave no details.

“A number of terrorists have infiltrated into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement, adding that residents in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip had been told to stay in their homes.