Israel Goes on Offensive Against Hamas as U.S. Warns Hezbollah Not to Engage

Hamas threatens to execute hostages in response to Israeli bombardment of civilians

By Dion Nissenbaum,  Stephen Kalin, , Dov Lieber, Nancy A. Youssef, WSJ

ALONG THE ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER—Israel prepared for what could be an extended ground assault in the Gaza Strip, and the Pentagon warned Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to “think twice” before joining the conflict and said it was prepared to come to Israel’s defense.

Dozens of tanks and hundreds of Israeli soldiers fanned out along the Gaza Strip border Monday, while Hamas threatened to execute Israeli hostages it seized some 48 hours earlier during a devastating invasion.

A U.S. aircraft carrier strike force is due to arrive in the Eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday, a deployment a defense official described as “a deterrent signal to Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, and any other proxy across the region” who were weighing joining the conflict.

“Those adversaries should think twice,” the official said.

Israeli sniper teams honed their aim on hillsides overlooking Hamas-controlled territory amid the constant buzz of Israeli drones flying overhead. Missiles destroyed Palestinian buildings on the horizon, while Hamas rockets slammed into Israeli towns still reeling from Saturday’s attack.

“We are ready, we are waiting,” said David Ohayon, a 34-year-old Israeli army paramedic, as tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled into position nearby. “We are ready to go in 10 minutes if asked.”

For Ohayon, the fight is personal: On Saturday, he found the body of a friend from Jerusalem among those killed by Hamas fighters at a desert dance party.

“We are going to deliver a heavy blow that they will remember for many years,” he said. “I hope they will receive one hell of a shock.”

The Israeli military has launched a wave of attacks on Gaza after retaking control of towns in the country’s south from Hamas, as the war between Israeli forces and Islamist militants backed by Iran entered its third day. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a full siege of Gaza, which has already faced years of restrictions on the movement of goods and people. “There will be no electricity, food or fuel,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a televised address late Monday said he had ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a mass offensive against Hamas at an intensity that has never been seen before.

Israel Launches Attacks on Gaza as Defense Minister Orders SiegePlay video: Israel Launches Attacks on Gaza as Defense Minister Orders Siege
The Israeli military launched a powerful wave of airstrikes on Gaza Monday after Hamas, a militant group backed by Iran, launched an unprecedented attack on Israel over the weekend. Photo: Atef Safadi/Shutterstock

“The horrors that Hamas has committed have not been witnessed since the hours of ISIS,” Netanyahu said, referring to Islamic State’s rapid expansion across Syria and Iraq. “What we will do to our enemies in the next few days will reverberate for generations.”

At least 900 Israelis were killed during the weekend assault, according to state broadcaster Kan. Israeli volunteer rescue organization Zaka said Monday night it had discovered at least 108 bodies in one kibbutz alone. Dozens more people have been abducted and taken across the border. Netanyahu vowed that the Israeli government would do everything it could for them.

Palestinian officials reported Monday that 687 people in Gaza have been reported dead and 3,726 injured as Israeli shelling escalates. The death toll is likely to climb further as the Israeli military prepares for its offensive, refraining from its usual practice of sending a warning shot ahead of airstrikes to allow people time to evacuate.

Late Monday, Hamas military spokesman Abu Obeida threatened to execute a civilian hostage for every unannounced strike against a Palestinian home and to broadcast the executions. “The enemy does not understand the language of humanity and morals, so we will address him in the language he knows,” he said.

Tanks and troops that had surged south toward Gaza over the weekend regained control of Israeli towns and evacuate civilians, while 100,000 reservists amassed nearby. The military has said it is awaiting government orders over a possible invasion aimed at incapacitating Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

“We are now conducting waves of powerful attacks,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said, with dozens of aircraft hitting Gaza, a densely populated area that is twice the size of Washington, D.C.

Israeli soldiers and police officers were still battling small pockets of Hamas militants Monday, some hiding out in towns near the Gaza border. At least two Palestinian militants were killed in an attack they carried out overnight near the Sa’ad kibbutz, according to Israeli state broadcaster Kan. In the nearby city of Sderot, smoke rose from the smoldering rubble of the city police station, where Israeli security forces had used a bulldozer to raze the building over the weekend and kill a small group of Palestinian fighters who had made a last stand inside.

“The city has been cleared of terrorists,” said one Israeli soldier standing guard outside a small market in Sderot, a half-mile from the border, where residents who had been in hiding for days rushed in to stock up on cigarettes and water.

Minutes later, a woman’s voice came over a loudspeaker: “Red alert. Red alert.”

Rocket after rocket fired from Hamas positions slammed into parking lots, roads and buildings.

Israeli troop reinforcements took position at the border with Gaza on Monday. PHOTO: JACK GUEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Israeli soldiers scan an area near Sderot, southern Israel. PHOTO: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

One Hamas rocket hit a car, setting it ablaze. Another landed in a roundabout where Israeli soldiers stood watch in front of a mini-market. A third sent up a curling black plume of smoke from a nearby home.

“They should end Hamas,” said Shlomo Aragon, a 50-year-old Sderot resident before he rushed for what little cover he could find next to a metal refrigerator behind a minimart.

He said dozens were killed in Sderot, including friends and neighbors. Many residents have fled, along with thousands of others from nearby communities that have been asked to evacuate as the Israeli military prepares for an expected ground assault on Hamas fighters in Gaza.

The streets are still littered with wreckage from Saturday’s attack. Black flies settled on coagulated blood caking an ATV used by one Hamas fighter to drive into the city. The charred bones of a driver caught in their car rested below the melted steering wheel. The nearby highway is still littered with dozens of burned and bullet-riddled cars. Boots, batteries and abandoned shopping bags filled with rotting food lay scattered next to a shrapnel-scarred bus stop.

Meanwhile, the White House said at least 11 Americans had been killed in the conflict, with other U.S. citizens unaccounted for.

Large plumes of gray smoke rose from residential areas in several cities and refugee camps across Gaza, where two million people are densely packed. Residents pulled charred bodies of bombing victims from the debris and rushed them through streets lined with burned-out cars and raging fires, images broadcast live on pan-Arab channel Al Jazeera.

A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on Monday. PHOTO: AFP CONTRIBUTOR#AFP/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People assess the destruction cause by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City. PHOTO: MAJDI FATHI/ZUMA PRESS

A spokesman for Hamas said hundreds of Israeli airstrikes had struck residential towers, civilian facilities and mosques. Tens of thousands of residents fled their homes, but found nowhere safe to go.

In recent years, Israel’s strategy in Gaza has been to avoid a full-scale war by intermittently attacking militant groups while tightly restricting the flow of people and most goods in and out of the enclave. The last time Israeli ground troops entered Gaza was in 2014.

Returning to Gaza, which may not be imminent, is fraught with risks for the Israelis. Part of Hamas’s calculus may have been to draw them into an unwinnable fight.

The territory’s densely packed urban zones and extensive network of underground tunnels would test the most hardened special forces. Mass displacement and extensive loss of Palestinian life threatens to erode international support for Israel. And even if it were successful in eliminating Hamas, it isn’t clear that Israel would succeed in establishing clear control over the enclave.

“The Israelis have said the rules have changed, and I think their goal is to destroy Hamas and then come what may afterwards,” said Steven Cook, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

The hostages taken by Hamas complicate the situation for the Israeli forces. Obeida said the group wouldn’t negotiate their release while under fire. He claimed that Israeli bombing had already killed four hostages held by his group; it wasn’t possible to verify his claim. The captives include American, European and Asian nationals.

The scale of the conflict and its impact on the Middle East will likely be determined by the Israeli response, the spread of violence to other Palestinian areas and the potential involvement of the U.S. and Iran. The Wall Street Journal reported that Tehran helped plot the attack over several weeks.

President Biden expressed full support for Israel and directed the Pentagon to send equipment, munitions and other weaponry. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin offered planning and intelligence services to the Israelis to help the Israel Defense Forces plan hostage rescue operations, according to a U.S. official.

“The IDF has been clear that they aren’t thinking about hostage rescue at the moment,” the official said. “It’s not clear what their plan is.”

Israel dropped U.S.-produced GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs over the weekend and plans to take possession of hundreds more as early as Tuesday, a U.S. official said. Israel also requested small arms, ammunition, mortars and 122 mm tank rounds, a U.S. official said.

“We remain positioned for supporting Israel’s defense and the U.S. military can expeditiously deploy dynamic capabilities across the globe,” the defense official added.

Parents of Israeli soldier Ron Sherman woke up to frantic messages from their son on Saturday morning as Hamas militants raided a base near Gaza where he was staying. The 19-year-old was later seen in a video of Israeli hostages. Photo: Maayan and Alex Sherman

The stark Pentagon warning that it could intervene on Israel’s behalf if Iran-backed proxies sought to escalate and broaden the war came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials have been redoubling diplomatic efforts to prevent the war between Hamas and Israel from spreading across the region.

Over the weekend, the State Department reached out to the government in Beirut, urging it to persuade Hezbollah to stay out of the conflict, according to a senior administration official. But Lebanon’s government, which has seen its own share of turbulence, has little influence on Hezbollah’s decisions.

David Wurmer, Middle East adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney, said Israel was on the cusp of a full ground invasion and reoccupation of Gaza, which it left in 2005 after nearly four decades, as it shifts from containing Hamas to trying to destroy it.

“This is not an in and out…It will take months,” said Wurmer. “You’re going to see a fundamental shift, and precedents are irrelevant at this point.”

Following the initial assault, some Hamas militants took up positions in civilian areas, slowing efforts by Israel’s military to kill or expel them. There were still breaches in the barrier between Israel and Gaza, but the military was using tanks and aircraft to prevent more fighters from crossing through, an Israeli spokesman said.

If Israel can neutralize Hamas’s ability to launch rockets into Israeli territory, it can reposition air defenses to the north to intercept strikes in the event of an escalation by Hezbollah of Lebanon, another Iran-backed militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

“The nightmare scenario for the Israelis is that they go a week or two shooting down 6,000 to 10,000 Hamas missiles and then they have nothing left to stop the Hezbollah missiles,” said Wurmer.

An Israeli tank is positioned near Israel’s border with Lebanon on Monday. PHOTO: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The Lebanese border saw an uptick in violence a day after Israeli forces traded fire with Hezbollah. Israel’s military said it killed an unspecified number of people in a strike on a Lebanese village after an armed incursion into Israel. Hezbollah later said three of its fighters had been killed, prompting it to launch missiles and mortars at two Israeli military sites. The Israeli military reported no injuries in the attacks.

At Gaza’s largest hospital, a stream of cars and trucks delivered the dead and wounded, while police held back crowds from entering. Medics struggled to deal with the flood of casualties, treating some on the floor.

Power cuts compounded the struggle to cope with an influx of casualties. At the hospital’s morgue, a middle-aged mother held two surviving sons, telling them, “Your brother is a martyr. Don’t cry.”

Amid social media warnings from the Israeli military that it would target the entire neighborhood of al-Rimal in Gaza City, Um Mahmoud Al-Kolak sought refuge at a hospital. But she still didn’t feel safe. “We’re trying to figure out where to go, but there’s no secure place in Gaza,” she said.

Palestinian health authorities said at least nine ambulances had been struck directly. Bombardment around the only hospital in Beit Hanoun made it impossible to treat people, it added.<

In Beit Hanoun, a family of 20 people including women and children, were all killed, said Marouf. The United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees said one of its schools sheltering more than 200 displaced people was directly hit, without any casualties.

Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, said the military would try to minimize collateral damage but that there has been “a change in paradigm.”

Hamas’s invasion of southern Israel early Saturday morning shocked Israel and represented a major failure of its vaunted intelligence services, drawing comparisons to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In a surprise attack from land, sea and air, around 1,000 Palestinians from Gaza initially pushed more than 20 miles into Israel and breached four military bases. They killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers, and took scores more back into Gaza as hostages.

Netanyahu’s cabinet responded by issuing a formal declaration of war. Some 300,000 Israeli reservists have arrived for duty, the largest call-up in Israeli history.

The conflict has rippled beyond the region. Oil prices jumped over concerns of broader instability in the Middle East, one of the world’s biggest crude-producing regions. Israel’s central bank announced plans to sell up to $30 billion in foreign currencies to stabilize the shekel after it fell to a seven-year low against the dollar when trading resumed Monday.

Major U.S. and international airlines canceled dozens of flights to Israel’s main international airport in Tel Aviv.

Palestinians make their way with some belongings along a debris-strewn street in Gaza City. PHOTO: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS


Israelis inspect a damaged residential building after it was hit by a rocket in Ashkelon, Israel. PHOTO: ERIK MARMOR/ASSOCIATED PRESS


 Anas Baba, Fatima AbdulKarim, Jared Malsin, Anat Peled, Chao Deng, Summer Said, Shayndi Raice, Benoit Faucon and Gordon Lubold contributed to this article.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at, Stephen Kalin at, Dov Lieber at and Nancy A. Youssef at

October 10, 2023 | 2 Comments »

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  1. Syria Launches Missiles On Golan Heights As US To Begin ‘Surging’ Defense Aid To Israel
    Tyler Durden’s Photo
    by Tyler Durden
    Tuesday, Oct 10, 2023 – 01:12 PM

    Update(1612ET): The Syrian Army has fired missiles toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights Tuesday evening (local), breaking reports indicate. The Israeli Defense Force have confirmed the attack:

    A number of launches from Syria aimed for Israel were identified a short while ago. Part of the launches crossed into Israeli territory and presumably fell in open areas.
    — Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 10, 2023

  2. Israel has always protected the innocent civilians of Gaza, taking great risks to do so. But that was then.

    This is an attempted genocide and an attempt to end Israel.

    Israel must do everything in their power to defeat Hamas once and for all. There can be no living with them after this.

    The only precedent for this situation is the holocaust. Expecting Israelis to keep the Palestinians of Gaza safe is like expecting Jews in death camps to be careful not to harm the Germans as they escape for their lives.

    Anyone who holds Israel responsible for these people is simply on the side of Iran and Hamas.