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How the Israel-Gaza attacks unfolded, hour by hour - The Sunday Times - 07.10.23

The Hamas invasion began at 6am as paragliders and trucks stormed through Israel’s defences. Screams rang out as fighters took captives.

By Inna Lazareva, Tel Aviv | Megan Agnew, Louise Callaghan

Hundreds are dead on both sides after Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, which retaliated with strikes on Gaza.

The Palestinian group that controls Gaza attacked Israel by land, sea and air in an operation that was unprecedented in its ambition and ferocity. More than 50 Israeli hostages were also thought to have been taken forcibly to Gaza.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, whose government has faced mass domestic protests since the start of the year, said the country was “at war”. He pledged that the “enemy will pay an unprecedented price”. President Biden said the United States had “rock solid and unwavering” support for Israel.

How it began

Bar Perry woke up to the sound of war. At 6am she heard the scream of rockets, followed by sirens, in her hometown of Sderot, Israel, a mile from Gaza. Very soon she was being sent messages about Palestinian gunmen walking through the town, knocking on front doors, battering them down — and taking people away.

“They shot people and entered homes, kidnapped people,” said Perry, 36, who was still trapped in a safe room with her husband and their dog on Saturday afternoon. “People shared footage from safety cameras showing it all happen. There were gunshots, screams. The amount of terror and cruelty is beyond compare. It’s like a horror movie.”

Early on Saturday, Palestinian fighters began their most daring and brutal raid on Israel in decades. Before dawn broke, the highly guarded fence between Gaza and Israel was breached. Hamas troops flooded into the country by land, sea and air.

Palestinian fighters set fire to tanks and occupied towns, with dozens of Israelis reportedly taken back to Gaza as hostages. Unverified videos on social media show them handcuffed and bloodied, paraded through the streets by Hamas terrorists carrying Kalashnikovs.

Hamas gunmen infiltrate Israel

Thousands of rockets were fired from Gaza, and Israel launched airstrikes in retaliation. Just over three hours after the first rockets were fired, the Israeli government declared that the country was at war. The attack appeared to take the Israeli defence forces (IDF) by surprise, the strike happening on Shabbat and the public holiday of Simchat Torah. How did it unfold? And how did it escalate so quickly?

‘Secure’ border breached

The first sign of the attack came at about 6am when Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, fired a barrage of rockets at southern Israel. This provided cover for an infiltration of fighters over the border, acknowledged by the IDF at 7.30am. The Israeli-Gaza border is one of the most heavily fortified on earth, defended not only by cement barricades, watchtowers and endless rows of razor wire but also by Israel’s supposedly state-of-the art security and surveillance systems.

It is heavily guarded by soldiers, and anyone crossing has to walk for a considerable distance through no-man’s land to reach the Gazan side, after thorough Israeli security checks.

“It was a combined attack, they did it simultaneously,” Major Nir Dinar of the IDF said. “From the videos we can see that the fence is cut, which surprised us because it’s very strong and it never happened until now. It’s surprising they did it. In some places, they [blew up] the fence with improvised explosive devices. Then they rammed vehicles through it.” At the same time, he said, fighters using paragliders landed in Israel.

The Qassem Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, posted a slickly produced video, some of which appeared to be shot by GoPro cameras and drones, which apparently showed its fighters flying over the border wall in the motorised gliders just after sunrise, before storming an Israeli army post.

A video shared by the Israeli navy showed a group of black-clad men approaching the coast at high speed, crouched in a small boat, before being blown out of the water in an explosion. The navy claimed it showed a failed attack by Hamas’s naval commandos.

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concern about Hamas’s maritime programme which they claimed could be used to stage attacks from the sea.

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How the Israel-Gaza attacks unfolded, hour by hour - The Sunday Times - 07.10.23
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