- After Hamas launched its biggest attack on Israel in years, Israel said it was in “a state of war.”
- Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas and Gaza would pay an “unprecedented price.”
- If past retaliations are any indication, Israel’s response could be devastating for Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “a state of war” after Hamas launched a wave of attacks from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 70 Israelis and injuring hundreds of others.
In a recorded statement released Saturday morning, Netanyahu added that he was mobilizing Israeli forces to strike back.
“I am initiating an extensive mobilization of the reserves to fight back on a scale and intensity that the enemy has so far not experienced. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” Netanyahu said.
If Netanyahu stays true to his word, that price could be astronomical for people living in Gaza, a small spit of Palestinian land controlled by the paramilitary group Hamas that Israel has held under a devastating blockade since 2007. That blockade has resulted in widespread unemployment in Gaza and a shortage of everything from food to medicine. It also restricts most residents from leaving the territory.
Under Netanyahu, Israel has also dramatically expanded its isolation of Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, where Israeli settlements on Palestinian land have grown dramatically. Israel’s far-right government approved 7,000 additional settlements in the occupied West Bank earlier this year.
How Israel might respond to Hamas attacks
What might Netanyahu’s “unprecedented” response mean? If past retaliations are any indication, the repercussions for Gazans could be catastrophic.
Israel has already begun launching attacks on Gaza, sending fighter jets to bomb Hamas targets and mobilizing ground forces. The Palestinian Health Ministry says about 200 Palestinians have so far been killed and 1,600 others injured. But this is likely only the start.
In 2008, after Palestinian militants fired a barrage of rockets over a period of weeks into southern Israel, killing 13 Israelis, Israel responded with air strikes on Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to Reuters. Over a dozen Israelis were also reportedly killed.
And in one of the worst escalations of violence between the two sides in recent years, after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas in 2014, Israel launched a seven-week war that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, Reuters reported. Tens of thousands of homes in Gaza were also leveled, and 73 Israelis died in that conflict, 67 of them from the Israeli military.
After the initial Hamas attack on Saturday, Netanyahu said he told President Joe Biden that “a forceful, prolonged campaign” is necessary, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Biden issued his own statement shortly after, saying he made it clear to Netanyahu in a phone call that his administration is “ready to offer all appropriate means of support” to Israel and its people.
“Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people,” Biden said. “The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”
The United States has been providing billions in military aid to Israel annually since the late 1990s. In 2019, the United States increased the amount of military aid it gives Israel every year to $3.8 billion.