Some footage coming out of possible shooting of civilians by Hamas on the streets of Israel
Israel’s military has declared a ‘state of war’ after Islamic militant group Hamas fired a claimed 5,000 rockets into the country early on Saturday.
Forces in the country have ordered residents to remain indoors after confirming Hamas militants had ‘infiltrated’ the country in several locations near the Gaza border in southern Israel.
‘The military declares a state of war alert,’ it said in a statement. ‘In the last hour, the Hamas terrorist organization had begun a massive shooting of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory in a number of different locations.’
Hamas supreme military commander Mohammed Deif said the operation, Al-Aqsa Storm, was a declaration that ‘enough is enough’ as he urged Palestinians to confront Israel.
Images on social media appeared to show armed militants in built-up areas, while Israeli media reports suggested an Israeli soldier had been kidnapped by Hamas militants as they swept the streets.
Rockets are fired from Gaza City towards Israel early on Saturday as Hamas declared that it had begun a new offensive against the country
Following the first attacks, Hamas commander Deif has urged Palestinians to engage in a civil uprising.
In remarks reported by CNN, he said: ‘If you have a gun, get it out. This is the time to use it – get out with trucks, cars, axes. Today the best and most honorable history starts.’
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would shortly convene security chiefs over the violence.
The country’s Magen David Adom rescue agency said a woman in her 60s was killed ‘due to a direct hit’ in Israel, reports AFP.
Elsewhere, a 20-year-old man was moderately injured by rocket shrapnel, it said. Fifteen others were wounded, two of them seriously.
Hamas ‘will face the consequences and responsibility for these events’, an army statement said, and Israel has begun began striking targets in Gaza in response.
It sets the stage for what was likely to be a new heavy round of fighting between the bitter enemies but locals claimed that they were yet to see a military response as footage showed Hamas militants entering civilian settlements.
One local told Israeli news website Ynet: ‘We are under attack, and no one is coming to help us. For more than an hour and a half there has been non-stop shooting. They are slaughtering us here, there is no army.’
Images have circulated on social media showing what appeared to be uniformed Palestinian gunmen inside the Israeli border town of Sderot.
Another video, reported by the AP news agency, appeared to show the lifeless body of an Israel Defence Force (IDF) soldier being trampled in Gaza by an angry crowd shouting ‘God is great’.
Clips also posted online appeared to show militants dragging away an Israeli soldier on a motorcycle. The agency said it had not been able to verify the authenticity of the footage.
The sound of outgoing rockets whooshing through the air could be heard in Gaza and sirens wailed as far away as Tel Aviv, some 70 kilometres (40 miles) to the north, during the early morning barrage that lasted more than 30 minutes.