‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 2: Israel declares war as casualties skyrocket

MWPB  /  October 8, 2023

The Mondo Weiss Palestine Bureau (MWPB): Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed over the past 24 hours as Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip in response to “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.” It is reported that over 600 Israelis have been killed in the past 24 hours.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed over the past 24 hours as Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes – Israel’s response to “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”, launched by Hamas on Saturday morning. It is reported that over 600 Israelis have been killed in the past 24 hours, which is more than in the first year-and-a-half of the second Intifada.  

Hours after Hamas launched the operation, the largest Palestinian offensive on Israel in decades, Israel announced it was launching “Operation Iron Swords”, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price.”

Airstrikes began just minutes after the Israeli operation was announced, shortly before 11 a.m. local time on Saturday. Airstrikes continued throughout Saturday afternoon and into the night, with Israeli airstrikes leveling entire residential buildings in the densely-populated Gaza Strip. Rocket fire from the Strip also continued into the night, with Hamas reporting more than 5,000 rockets fired into Israel.

On Sunday afternoon, around 3:30 pm local time, the Israeli Security Cabinet officially declared a state of war, which, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office allows the government to carry out “significant military activities.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement on Sunday telling Palestinians in Gaza to “leave now,” because Israel is going to “turn all Hamas hiding places into rubble.”

More than two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which is under complete blockade by both Israel and Egypt. Gaza’s land borders, as well as airspace and maritime borders, are all under the control of the Israeli military, meaning that it is virtually impossible for Gazans to leave the territory unless Israel or Egypt open up their borders, which at the time of publication remained closed. 

Israel cuts power in Gaza, Palestinians search for safety

Saturday overnight was rough for Palestinians in Gaza, the Israeli bombardment never stops. Massive airstrikes and shelling target resident towers, homes, lands, police headquarters checkpoints, and civil institutions. 

Five resident towers, which are homes for thousands of people, have been completely destroyed since Saturday afternoon, and hundreds of homes were bombed with people still inside. 

Several families across the Gaza Strip were wiped out by Israeli bombing in Deir al-Balah, Khan Yonus, and Rafah. 

In addition, Israel announced it would cut off power supplies to the Gaza Strip, so that now people will only receive 2-4 hours of power daily. The bombings have also damaged other infrastructure, and some areas in Gaza have lost internet connection in addition to power. 

The Gaza health ministry reported 313 were killed by the Israeli fire and over 1,990 injuries. Dozens of people are still missing without any details about them. 

View from Al-Shuja’iyya 

By Saturday afternoon, people in Gaza knew the incoming Israeli response would be overwhelming. In Al-Shuja’iyya, an area home to over 300,000 people in eastern Gaza, people began packing their belongings and leaving their homes to the center of Gaza City. Some people went to their relatives’ homes, but most headed to the UNRWA schools in Gaza.

UNRWA said that 28 schools in Gaza are prepared to host people who evacuated their homes across the Strip and reported that 20,300 people had already evacuated to the schools since Saturday. 

People in Al-Shuja’iyya have learned the lesson since the 2014 war when Israel bombed the area and forced people to leave their homes barefoot amid massive bombing as they were forced to flee. 

The Israeli government is once again threatening Palestinians to leave their homes. The Israeli government coordinator who runs a Facebook page for Gaza workers who work in Israel posted a warning that included seven areas in Gaza that should evacuate their homes, including Al-Shuja’iyya. 

Due to this, many in Al-Shuja’iyya are leaving their homes before the situation worsens, although the possibilities of finding a safe space remain unclear.

Ongoing fighting in towns around Gaza

As of 2 p.m. local time, Palestinian resistance fighters were still engaged with Israeli forces in several Israeli localities bordering Gaza, while the Israeli army announced that it would be evacuating 25 other border towns, and possibly more in the next 24 hours “according to the assessment of the situation.” 

Throughout the day, the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian commandos has been thickest in Kfar Aza, Re’im, Ofakim, Kissufim, Kibbutz Magen, Erez, Zikim, and several other Israeli colonies, although the map of confrontation continues to shift throughout the day, with some place being taken over by Israeli forces, while others coming under control of Palestinian resistance fighters. 

Most importantly, both the resistance factions’ media organs and Israeli military sources are confirming that the Palestinian forces have been able to partially resupply in certain areas, which indicates that the resistance intends to prolong its operation in occupied Palestine.

Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obidah confirmed that Hamas could resupply its fighters inside the occupied territories and managed to infiltrate more fighters.  

“The Al-Qassam leadership managed to supply the fighters with weapons, shells, and equipment. The leadership also infiltrated new fighters and supported them with over 100 rockets.” Abu Obidah said. 

In a recent statement by Abu Obidah, he said that the Hamas air forces joined the battle with over 35 homemade drones.  

The fighters inside Israel are not only Hamas-affiliated fighters, the PIJ also said that dozens of its fighters are joining the battle and fighting the Israelis.  

Whether this may lead to extended control over areas surrounding Gaza, or is part of a moving force meant to fulfill limited tactical objectives before withdrawing, remains to be seen. Media reports have reported increasing Israeli and Palestinian casualties from the ongoing fighting in the settlements, and the Israeli army released the names of 25 soldiers killed during the fighting as of 1 p.m. local time.

Hezbollah launches limited strikes

On Sunday morning, October 8, Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon fired rockets into northern occupied Palestine at three Israeli targets in the Shebaa Farms region, which is historically Lebanese land that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. The areas targeted by Hezbollah were “radar sites” such as Zebdine and Ruwaisat al-Alam.

The Islamic resistance organization put out a statement following the attack, proclaiming that it was “on the road to the liberation of what remains of occupied Lebanese soil,” and that an armed force in Hezbollah had carried out these attacks on the Israeli sites with “a large amount of artillery fire and guided missiles.”

The immediate cause of the strike was its coinciding with the surprise attack of the Gaza resistance a day earlier, which Hezbollah conducted in retaliation for Israel’s retribution against Palestinians in Gaza and its attacks on Al-Aqsa, and “in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and their struggle,” as conveyed by a Hezbollah spokesperson. 

Yet the Lebanese strike was also preceded by gradually mounting tensions on occupied Palestine’s northern border, namely between Hezbollah and the Israeli regime. The tensions expressed themselves in various incidents and inflammatory remarks from Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s threats of sending Lebanon “back to the Stone Age” after Hezbollah put up tents on the Israeli side of the border. 

By approximately 11:50 a.m. local time,, the head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, Hashem Safi al-Din, put out a statement saying that “we are not remaining neutral in the battle that is being waged against the Israeli occupation.”

West Bank Updates

Seven Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank since Saturday morning, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, including one child. Following the beginning of “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” out of Gaza on Saturday morning, protests and demonstrations in support of Gaza erupted in various parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. At the same time, Israeli settlers embarked on a number of attacks on Palestinian villages across the West Bank. 

The first Palestinian to be killed in the West Bank on Saturday was an unidentified man from the Ramallah-area village of Al-Lubban al-Gharbiyye, west of Ramallah, according to the Palestinian Authority-owned WAFA news agency. The man was shot and killed after allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing near the illegal Ariel settlement in the Salfit district of the West Bank. 

Later in the afternoon, the Israeli army shot and killed a young Palestinian man during confrontations near the entrance to Jericho city. He was identified as Karam Nasser al-Aydi, 22, a resident of the Ain al-Sultan refugee camp in Jericho. Al-Aydi was reportedly shot in the head by Israeli gunfire. 

In the town of al-Bireh, which borders Ramallah in the central West Bank, one Palestinian young man was killed and at least 12 others were injured by the Israeli army during protests at the northern entrance to the city. Omar Ibrahim Al-Tarsha, a resident of the Ramallah-area town of Beitunia, was shot in the head and later succumbed to his wounds. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, medical crews treated 12 Palestinians for gunshot wounds and rubber-coated steel bullet injuries during the confrontations. 

A 12-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed in the city of Qalqilya in the northwestern West Bank, according to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP). He was identified as Ahmad Abdulnaser Adnan Rabi, and was participating in a demonstration that marched towards an Israeli checkpoint outside the city when Israeli forces began opening fire on demonstrators. According to DCIP, an Israeli soldier shot Ahmad in the waist from a distance of 50-100 meters (165-330 feet). The boy was transported bia ambulance to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery for about an hour before he was pronounced dead. According to DCIP, Ahmad was one of at least 40 Palestinian children who were killed by Israel in the West Bank in 2023. 

Later on Saturday night, a 19-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed in the city of Hebron. According to WAFA news, 19-year-old Yusuf Nader Suleiman Idris was shot by Israeli forces in the chest. The circumstances of his killing, and whether there were protests or confrontations happening at the moment. 

Another Palestinian teenager, identified by the MOH as Mahmoud Basem Khmais, 18, was killed by Israeli forces during confrontations at the entrance of the town of Beit Ummar in the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. Khmais was shot in the chest and was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Several other Palestinians were injured during the confrontations in Beit Ummar, primarily with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. 

A seventh Palestinian was killed in the early morning hours of Sunday, October 8th, in the Nablus district of the northern West Bank. He was identified as 19-year-old Ahmed Atef Awawdeh. Awawdeh was reportedly shot dead by Israeli forces near the Palestinian town of Deir Sharaf. The Jenin Brigade released a statement claiming Awawdeh as one of its fighters, saying he was martyred while “engaging in an armed clash with the occupation forces near Shavei Shomron [settlement].”

A general strike was announced across the West Bank on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, shops, businesses, government offices and schools were all shuttered as approximately three million Palestinians observed the strike. 

In addition to suppressing protests across the West Bank, the Israeli army enforced massive closures inside the West bank and along the borders of the occupied territory, shutting down major checkpoints into occupied Jerusalem and Israeli-controlled territory. Israeli forces set up roadblocks and closed off entrances and exits to at least six villages in the Ramallah governorate. Israeli forces also enforced a full closure of the Bethlehem governorate, closing off the main checkpoints surrounding Bethlehem city and the neighboring town of Beit Jala, as well as a number of villages in the Bethlehem governorate. 

In the wake of the Gaza operation on Saturday morning, Israeli settlers carried out a number of attacks across the West Bank. In Jenin, Israeli settlers opened fire on Palestinian homes in the town of Jalbun in two separate incidents on Saturday. No injuries were reported. 

A group of Israeli settlers also launched an attack on the Salfit-area village of Yasuf, firing live ammunition at Palestinians and setting fire to homes. According to local media, two Palestinians were injured with live ammunition, and two homes in the village were set on fire. When residents went out to confront the settlers and defend their village, they were reportedly met with violence from both settlers and accompanying Israeli soldiers, who fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas at Palestinians. A similar attack was reported in the Nablus-area village of Qusra, though no injuries were reported. Israeli settlers also attacked and injured Palestinian farmers in the Bethlehem and Jordan Valley districts of the West Bank. 

The Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau are the Mondoweiss staff members based in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip