Militants on paragliders and '5,000' rockets: How Hamas carried out deadly Israel attack

By Isaac M October 8, 2023

Hamas has launched one of its largest attacks on Israel in years.

The militant group began its offensive – which it named “Operation Al Aqsa Storm” – on Saturday with a barrage of missiles from Gaza followed by militants crossing the border.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “we are at war” and launched “Operation Swords of Iron”.

Here is what we know so far about how the attack unfolded.

Israel-Gaza latest: Hamas fighters on the ground after ‘5,000 rockets’ fired

7am: Hamas launches rockets

The operation started just before 7am local time and came without warning.

The first Israelis knew about it was via air raid sirens in southern areas near the Gaza border.

Explosions were reported in Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Yavne and Kfar Aviv, while large plumes of black smoke were seen rising from a number of Israeli towns.

07 October 2023, Israel, Ashkelon: People try to extinguish fire on cars following a rocket attack from Gaza. Palestinian militants in Gaza unexpectedly fired dozens of rockets at Israeli targets early on Saturday, the Israeli army said. Photo by: Ilia Yefimovich/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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The aftermath of a rocket attack in Ashkelon

Police officers evacuate a woman and a child from a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The rockets were fired as Hamas announced a new operation against Israel. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
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Israeli police officers evacuate a woman and a child

Israeli officials said around 2,500 rockets were fired, though Hamas’s military commander Mohammad Deif claimed the figure was double that.

7.30am: Clashes on the Gaza border

As the rockets rained down, Hamas militants crossed into Israel using paragliders, boats and on foot.

Reports emerged of armed clashes along the separation fence between Gaza and Israel, near the southern town of Khan Younis.

Video filmed on Saturday morning and verified by Sky News showed two Hamas militants flying across the border into Israel.

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Hamas paragliders appear to cross border

The footage emerged as Hamas released a video showing armed militants training to use the paragliders in preparation for the attack.

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Israeli tank set on fire

8am: Hamas confirms responsibility

Around 8am local time, Hamas claimed responsibility and announced it had started a new offensive against Israel.

The group also called on armed groups in Lebanon to join the fighting.

A map showing where air raid warnings and rocket attacks have taken place after an attack by Hamas on Israel.
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A map showing where air raid warnings and rocket attacks have taken place

A map showing the checkpoints and the city of Sderot that have come under attack from Hamas fighters.
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A map showing the checkpoints and the city of Sderot that have come under attack from Hamas fighters

8.30am: Israel calls up reservists and begins air strikes

Around 30 minutes later, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant approved the call-up of military reservists, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIL) said its militants had joined the attack.

Meanwhile, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed troops had clashed with Hamas militants at Erez Crossing – also known as the Beit Hanoun Crossing – at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

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Video shows Israel bombing Gaza Strip

07 October 2023, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: Palestinian take control of an Israeli military vehicle after crossing the border fence with Israel from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants in Gaza unexpectedly fired dozens of rockets at Israeli targets early on Saturday, the Israeli army said. Photo by: Mohammed Talatene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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Palestinians took control of an Israeli vehicle after crossing from Jabalia . Pic: AP

They also confirmed that fighting had taken place at the Zikim base to the south of Ashkelon.

Footage then emerged of an Israeli tank on fire at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis and, later, an Israeli armoured vehicle being driven into Shejaiya in Gaza.

Around this time, the IDF announced retaliatory strikes on Gaza and said an “extensive” mobilisation process had begun.

Explosions were reported across central Gaza and in Gaza City.

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Netanyahu: ‘We will win’

“Numerous IDF soldiers, including special forces, have been dispatched to the area surrounding the Gaza Strip and are operating in a number of different locations in the division in order to protect the residents of southern Israel,” said a statement.

“Dozens of IDF fighter jets struck a number of targets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.”

11am: Netanyahu says Israel ‘at war’

At around 11am, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the country in a statement, declaring: “We are at war and we will win.”

“Our enemy will pay a price the type of which it has never known,” he added.

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