10/07/2023, 14.29
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Hamas launches war on Israel. Gaza parish priest: escalation 'serious, but expected'

by Dario Salvi

Thousands of rockets from the Strip towards southern Israel, and incursions by militiamen who have taken control of some centres in 'enemy' territory. Numerous deaths, but there is also talk of dozens of hostages taken to Gaza. Israel is responding with massive air raids. The Palestinian action taken at dawn on Shabbat, 50 years after the Yom Kippur war. Fr. Romanelli: for months 'we had activated all preparations for an emergency situation'.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Israel is ready for "total war", in response to the most massive military operation in recent years launched by Hamas militiamen, who control the Gaza Strip and in the early hours of today launched thousands of rockets infiltrating the  "enemy" territoryalso taking control of some kibbutzim in southern Israel with the local population fleeing.

The violent clashes were later joined by Islamic Jihad pointing to a new open conflict, destined to cause further civilian victims resulting from a situation of profound tension between the parties that has been dragging on for some time.

The "serious" escalation  "was in the air" the parish priest of Gaza, Fr. Gabriel Romanelli , underlines to AsiaNews. The priest adds "it was not known when, but many were certain that all this would happen" and people "were preparing".

This morning around 7 local time, Hamas launched a vast military operation against Israel, dubbed the "al-Aqsa Flood", which saw the launch of at least 5,000 rockets and missiles from the Strip towards Israel and the simultaneous incursion of guerrillas into Sderot , in the south.

Many news stories are currently blocked by Israeli military censors; there is already talk of at least 22 dead and over 200 injured, but it seems likely that this toll will increase as the hours pass. Insistent rumors and even some videos also speak of dozens of Israeli hostages in the hands of Palestinian militiamen. The head of the Islamic extremist movement that controls Gaza Mohammad Deif speaks of the "day of the great revolution" in which "we decided to put an end to all crimes" linked to the Israeli "occupation".

Israel's response was immediate, launching a vast military operation called "Iron Swords", calling tens of thousands of reservists into service and alerting the army that it is "ready for total war". Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has proclaimed a state of emergency in the south of the country and within an 80 km radius of the Strip. Despite the festive days [Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year was recently celebrated in Israel] the government has also banned gatherings in Tel Aviv and also frozen all the protests planned against the judicial reform desired by Benjamin's executive Netanyahu. Anti-missile warning sirens have sounded in several parts of the country, while ground fighting is also ongoing in at least seven locations in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the nation, speaking explicitly about war: "It's not just an operation, it's really a war" while ordering a response "that the enemy has not known so far".

For Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh - who prayed in front of the TV images of the attack - the main reason for this new violent drift is "the aggression against the al-Aqsa mosque" by Israel, together with "the holy places and to the prisoners."

He warns the attack "has lasted for many months and has worsened in recent days".

President Isaac Herzog entrusts his intervention to social media, publishing a message on I send my encouragement and my strength – he concludes – to all the inhabitants of Israel who are under attack”.

Speaking over the phone to AsiaNews, the parish priest of Gaza, stopped at the crossing waiting for permits to return to the Strip, underlines that "at the moment the parishioners are fine", however there is widespread and general "fear" that this clash "will degenerate into a another war."

Fr. Gabriel Romanelli continues the Latin patriarchate "are trying to contact those responsible for the crossing" to get the green light to cross the border, but "for now they are not responding. I hope to be able to return as soon as possible - he continues - tomorrow morning at the latest. What is happening was in the air - he states - and this is confirmed by the fact that for a few months we had activated all the preparations for an emergency situation".

Unfortunately, the population has "experience" of war, and "an escalation was expected" after the five-day war in May this year. Many hypothesized “an even bigger war, we don't know when but there will certainly be. This time served to prepare us, knowing that a new conflict would break out."

Now we await "the Israeli response - concludes the parish priest - and in Gaza all the people are already very scared, we hope that the conflict does not degenerate excessively, but the prospects at the moment do not lead to optimism".

The operation launched today by Hamas (and Islamic Jihad) from the Strip risks turning into an open conflict exactly 50 years after the Yom Kippur war, which caught Israel unprepared.

This is an important historical reference and certainly wanted by Hamas: unlike the 1967 'Six Days' war, in fact, the Yom Kippur war did not end with a real victory for Israel.

On the contrary, the combined action of Egypt and Syria fuelled for a few days the Arab world's desire for 'revenge' with respect to the defeat suffered five years earlier; even the final armistice, three almost weeks later, was not considered a defeat, especially for Cairo (and President Muḥammad Anwar Sadat).

Although the attack on the Jewish state came today from the south, more than one commentator invites us to also look north and carefully observe the moves of the Lebanese Hezbollah (linked to Iran, Israel's historical enemy in the region), which could enter the game in the event of escalation.

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