This past Saturday, October 7, 2023, was an unprecedented day of death and violence in Israel. It was also a violent day for Palestinians in Gaza. But, just from watching the news and being on social media, it can be extremely hard to parse everything that’s happening.
With the help of our partner site, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, we’re here to help break it down as much as we can.
Below are answers to some basic questions about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza right now. (Also, check out Hey Alma’s guide to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a primer on the conflict as a whole.)
What happened in Israel and Gaza on Saturday?
On the morning of October 7, 2023, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel. At the same time, Hamas militants broke through the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. “Street fighting was underway in towns bordering on Gaza and Israeli officials confirmed that terrorists had taken hostages, in a dramatic surge of violence that began while Israelis were celebrating the Simchat Torah holiday and Shabbat,” JTA reported. JTA also noted that during this time, Hamas had taken control of an army base and police station in the city of Sderot, and had captured two ambulances and a tank.
“We are at war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the attack, which has thus far resulted in mass Israeli casualties. (We’ll get to specific numbers in a second.) In response, Israel launched its own rocket attack on Gaza, under which the Palestinian people also experienced mass casualties.
For context, this is not the first conflict between Israel and Hamas. “Hamas, a Palestinian terror group, has launched attacks on Israeli civilians for decades and has governed the Gaza Strip for more than 15 years. During that time, it has launched barrages of missiles at Israeli cities on the Gaza border and beyond, sending residents fleeing for shelter, and Israel has responded with airstrikes and offensives that have killed thousands of Palestinians in the coastal strip,” JTA stated.
They added. “Israel launched ground invasions of Gaza in 2008 and 2014. The most recent major round of conflict between the two sides took place in 2021.”
So, what is the death toll?
Ever since the attack, the death toll for Israelis and Palestinians has only continued to climb. At time of publication, 900 Israelis have been declared dead, over 2,200 have been injured and over 100 are currently being held captive in Gaza. In Gaza, 500 Palestinians have been killed and over 2,700 have been injured.
Per JTA, at least nine of the dead are U.S. citizens, 10 are citizens of Nepal and 11 Thai nationals have been taken captive by Hamas. Victims are connected to other countries, including Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to rise as there is no current end in sight to the conflict.
Wait, I also heard something about an All-Night Nature party?
Beginning on Friday night, an “All-Night Nature Party” was held near Kibbutz Re’im (in the south of Israel) and the border with Gaza. According to the Times of Israel, the rave in honor of Sukkot brought together nearly 3,000 young Israelis. The next morning, Hamas militants attacked the festival, killing 260 Israelis. Numerous party-goers were also taken hostage.
Was this attack the bloodiest day for Jews since the Holocaust?
JTA reports that this claim, which has been circulating on social media, appears to be accurate. “There have been bloody days in Israel’s history and for Jews around the world since 1945, but none has had a civilian death toll this high. Israeli wars have had higher casualty totals overall, but none has seen this many civilians murdered in a single day,” they wrote.
How has the Israeli army responded?
As of Monday morning, it seems that the IDF has regained control of the south of Israel. Now, they are planning a full-scale war on Gaza.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said following a military briefing. “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”
“Some leaders were calling for a ground invasion, and more than 300,000 Israeli reservists have been called to duty, the largest mobilization in the country’s history,” JTA also reported. “Volunteer efforts were underway to provide food, clothing and essential supplies to the troops.”
What will happen to the hostages?
At this moment in time, it’s unclear.
“Hamas kidnappings have, in the past, led to Israeli military operations and to at least one prisoner exchange,” JTA noted. However, on October 9, Hamas announced that it would execute one civilian hostage every time Gazan civilians are targeted in their homes without warning.
Unfortunately, the only clear thing right now is that this is likely to turn into a full-scale war in Gaza with much more death and destruction.
“It is too soon to tell how long the coming war will last or how wide-ranging it will be. The last ground invasion of Gaza, in 2014, lasted 50 days and ended with more than 70 Israelis and more than 2,100 Palestinians dead,” JTA reported.