Israel has formally declared a state of war against the militant Islamic group Hamas, 40 hours after the latter launched a surprise attack on Israel that has left more than 1,100 people dead – along with a number of U.S. citizens – and leaving thousands more injured and over 100 kidnapped and held hostage.
The attack, launched on the morning of a Jewish holiday, is the biggest offensive the group has done in recent history. Hamas carried out a guerilla-style raid aimed not at taking back contested territory, but rather in an effort to reign terror and inflict maximum damage to both people and property. Hamas militants, who were able to temporarily take control of several military facilities in Israeli territory, also managed to take a number of hostages. Armed Islamic militants also attacked a music festival being held in Southern Israel, killing more than 200 attendees; video has circulated of a number of victims being shot point blank by the assailants. Reports say Hamas fighters crossed into Israel, attacking as many as 22 other locations.
The declaration of war will allow Israel to conduct more “significant military steps” to address the situation – Israeli military has already conducted a large number of retaliatory strikes to the Gaza strip, hitting more than 400 targets, and has also clashed with Lebanon-based militants from Hezbollah, another group based in the north. Israel has also stopped the flow of supplies, goods, fuel, and electricity into Gaza.
Hamas claims that it has more than 130 hostages, and said that they will be used to trade for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. The group has also threatened to kill one civilian hostage for every instance Israel launches attacks on the Gaza Strip.
U.S. Sends Aircraft Carrier Group to the Mediterranean
In response to escalating conflicts in the area, the U.S. has dispatched the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to move closer to the eastern Mediterranean. The carrier group includes the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, currently the largest warship in the world, along with Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, and the USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt, which are all Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
President Joe Biden has also been in touch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where the former assured the latter that the U.S. will continue to support Israel.
“My team and I will continue to be in close contact with our Israeli counterparts to ensure they have what they need to protect their citizens and defend themselves against these heinous terrorist attacks,” said Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary of Defense.
“Squad” Gets Called Out for Hypocrisy
A number of U.S. politicians, Democrats who have been staunch critics of Israel in the past, did not immediately issue statements on the attack. Democratic Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, who just this year called Israel an “apartheid” state and accused the country of conducting “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians, said that she grieves over the “Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day,” but doubled down on her claim that Israel was an “apartheid” country, blaming the perceived practice – along with the “unconditional funding” she says the U.S. provides – for the “suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.”
Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – who along with Tlaib belong to the “Squad” of hyper-liberals in the Democratic Party – released a statement condemning the Hamas attack “in the strongest possible terms” and called for a “ceasefire” between the warring factions.
However, they have faced backlash from a number of House Republicans, like South Carolina Representative Nancy Mace, who called out AOC for calling for a ceasefire while also being a “Hamas apologist”.
“Hamas apologist asking for “ceasefire” after one side launches a massive terrorist attack. Nice try,” Mace said.
Tim Ramos has written for various publications, corporations, and organizations – covering everything from finance, politics, travel, entertainment, and sports – in Asia and the U.S. for more than 10 years.