by Bryan S
Around 6:30 AM in Gaza on Saturday, October 7, Palestinian armed groups began launching waves of rockets into Israel as cover for fighters to break through the military siege by land and sea. Hamas reported firing more than 5,000 rockets into Israel while the Israeli army put the number closer to 2,200.
The internet was soon flooded with pictures and videos of Palestinians bulldozing the barriers the Israeli military had constructed around Gaza, capturing Israeli military equipment, and penetrating far beyond the Gaza border. The Israeli public has been completely shocked by the high death toll, the taking of Israeli hostages back into the Gaza Strip, and the fact that the Israel intelligence services were caught by complete surprise.
The unprecedented militant action on the part of Palestinians has struck both supporters of Palestinian self-determination and Zionist supporters of the state of Israel. Mohammad Deif, commander of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, explained the immediate causes of “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” to be (1) repeated attacks on Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex in the Old City of Jerusalem, (2) the hundreds of Palestinians killed or injured by Israelis in 2023, and (3) Israeli refusal to exchange prisoners.
Israeli settler and IDF attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank over the past year have escalated to such an extent that the Israeli military commander of the occupied territory, Yehuda Fuchs, used the term “pogrom” to describe the violence earlier in 2023. Others have noted that Hamas may have intended this attack to quash growing efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Deif called for Palestians throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories to “expel the occupiers and demolish the walls,” and called for “our brothers in the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen” to unite with the Palestinian uprising. Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced its fighters had joined the Hamas militants in the operation, and Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon launched rockets into territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
An informal declaration of war by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formalized by the Israeli Security Cabinet a few hours later. The Israeli air force began launching strikes into Gaza around 11 AM local time on Saturday, Netanyahu released a statement telling Gazans to leave “Hamas hiding places” prior to the airstrikes.
However, more than two million Palestinians live in the 141 sq. miles of Gaza, with few shelters in which to take refuge. Additionally, the IDF has historically viewed all of Gaza as a potential “Hamas hiding place,” bombing residences, hospitals, UN buildings, international news offices, and energy infrastructure. Five residential towers, homes to thousands of Gazans, had been destroyed by Saturday afternoon. The United Nations announced Sunday night that 123,538 Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced by fighting, with 73,538 people sheltering across 64 schools.
Events are moving quickly and the toll of death and misery continues to rise. As of Monday afternoon in Gaza, around 700 Israelis and 510 Palestinians were reported dead, with more than 2,382 and 2,300 casualties respectively. While the Israeli military bombed Gaza, IDF soldiers and Zionist settlers killed at least fifteen Palestinians in the West Bank between Saturday morning and Monday afternoon. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released a statement ordering “a full siege on the Gaza Strip. No power, no food, no gas, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”
The Austin Chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) called for a rally at the Texas state capitol on Sunday, October 8, calling for the termination of United States aid to Israel and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners. Of the roughly fifty people on the edge of the capitol complex, about ten were supporters of the state of Israel while the majority of attendees waved Palestinian flags. No major physical altercations occurred despite heated emotions on both sides.
On Saturday, DSA released a statement expressing solidarity with Palestine, adding that “today’s events are a direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime . . . that receives billions in funding from the United States.” The message included the statement that “we unequivocally condemn the killing of all civilians.” On Sunday, DSA’s National Political Committee met to discuss immediate actions regarding the violence in Palestine. This includes briefings with socialist elected representatives to make clear DSA’s position on Palestine and a call for all of them to refuse to vote in favor of further military aid to Israel. The Sunday resolution on DSA statements and immediate actions was referred to a steering committee special meeting to occur within the next two days. The sharpest debate centered around whether and how to respond to instances of Palestinian violence against civilians.
In response to Fareed Zakaria’s emphasis on Israeli civilian deaths during an interview on CNN, Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI), said, “I do not accept attacking any civilian. I do not accept [when] Israelis attack our civilians, but look at what Israeli planes are doing now in Gaza. They are bombarding houses . . . highrise buildings are brought down to the ground and we are already receiving reports about families who are killed . . . I do not want any civilian to be hurt. Neither by Palestinians nor by Israelis. But the question is how to end that. Will it end by attacking [the] Gaza Strip another time? Israel has already conducted five wars on Gaza . . . This did not stop Hamas, did not stop resistance. There is one way to stop any violence and that is to end the Israeli occupation. And that is for the United States to be fair. They cannot say that Israel has the right to defend itself but we, the Palestinians, don’t have the right to defend ourselves.”