Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/ Flash90
Yesterday, as Jews in Israel and around the world gathered at synagogues to celebrate the joyous Simchat Torah holiday, the Hamas terrorist organization launched a large-scale surprise infiltration, the likes of which Israel hasn't seen in decades.
In an assault of shocking breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations in southern Israel on Saturday morning, including towns and smaller communities as far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Gaza border. In some places, they roamed for hours, gunning down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response. At the same time, thousands of rockets were fired at towns in the south and center.
According to the most recent estimates, the death toll from Hamas onslaught passes 750, over 160 kidnapped, and over 2,200 wounded. Relatives of the missing issue impassioned pleas for help.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is "at war" following the surprise attack from Hamas early Saturday morning. “Citizens of Israel, we are at war -- not in an operation, not in rounds -- at war,” Netanyahu said in a video message. IDF still working to clear terrorists from Israeli communities, over 36 hours after assault began.
Israeli jets carried out “intense” airstrikes on targets in Gaza on Sunday afternoon, shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that the security cabinet had voted Saturday evening to put the country officially at war, meaning it can carry out “significant military activities.”
Battles were ongoing Sunday in at least three communities near the Gaza border overrun by Hamas gunmen a day earlier, and rocket fire continued to dog Israeli communities, as Israel girded for what was expected to be a prolonged campaign against the Gaza-based terror group.
Portuguese Jews, like those around the world, who should have intensely enjoyed two days of Simchat Torah, are shocked and psychologically devastated. Many have family members in Israel. Others were immediately called up to serve the IDF now.
The Oporto Jewish Community, stated that “When all possible means are used to massacre innocent people, and young people, women, babies and even elderly people in wheelchairs are kidnapped, for the sole reason that they are Israeli Jews, the only possible reaction is the elimination of the hydra, which in fact says it is prepared to attack all over the world. The happiest day in the Jewish calendar (Simchat Torah) has given way to crying in synagogues, where people ask about the human rights of Jews and don't want to hear any more empty words.”
In turn, on its Facebook page, the Jewish Community of Lisbon stated that "the state of Israel has the unequivocal right to defend itself from these and future attacks, as well as to commit the full capacity of its security forces to protect its territorial integrity and the defense of its population. The Jewish Community of Lisbon stands in solidarity with the people of Israel and with all those whose lives were stolen or affected by terrorist actions."
Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer told this Sunday that "the death toll is constantly growing", adding: “There will probably be more hundreds, several hundred more.”