Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was a surprise attack by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. It was one of the deadliest and most shocking events in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it sparked a full-scale war between the two sides. Here is a brief summary of the operation and its aftermath:
- The attack began with a massive rocket barrage of at least 5,000 missiles from Gaza, targeting Israeli cities and towns. Some of the rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome system, but many others caused damage and casualties.
- At the same time, about 2,500 Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel through tunnels and breaches in the Gaza-Israel barrier. They attacked Israeli military bases, settlements, and civilians with guns, knives, explosives, and fire. They also took hundreds of hostages, including women and children, back to Gaza.
- The attack caught Israel off guard, as it was carried out on a Sabbath day and during several Jewish holidays. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were unprepared and overwhelmed by the scale and intensity of the assault. Many Israeli soldiers and security forces were killed or wounded in the initial hours of the operation.
- The IDF launched a counter-offensive, codenamed Operation Swords of Iron, to repel the invaders and rescue the hostages. They deployed ground troops, tanks, helicopters, jets, and drones to fight the Hamas militants. They also bombed and shelled Gaza, targeting Hamas's rocket launchers, tunnels, command centers, and weapons depots.
- The operation resulted in unprecedented bloodshed and destruction on both sides. According to official sources, more than 1,300 Israelis were killed in the attack, most of them civilians. About 1,000 Hamas fighters were also killed by the IDF. In Gaza, more than 10,000 Palestinians were killed or injured by the Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire. Thousands of homes and buildings were demolished or damaged in Gaza and Israel.
- The operation triggered a global outcry and condemnation from many countries and organizations. The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid for the victims. The United States, Israel's main ally, expressed its support for Israel's right to self-defense, but also urged restraint and diplomacy. Many other countries, especially in the Muslim world, denounced Israel's actions as disproportionate and brutal, and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians.
- The operation also sparked widespread protests and rallies around the world, both in support of and against Israel and Hamas. Some of these demonstrations turned violent, as clashes erupted between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups, or between protesters and police. Several incidents of anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim attacks were also reported in various countries. ²³
- The operation did not end the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but rather escalated it into a full-scale war that lasted for several weeks. The war only ended after intense diplomatic efforts by several countries, especially Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, and Norway, who mediated a ceasefire agreement between the two sides. The agreement stipulated that Hamas would stop firing rockets at Israel, and Israel would lift its blockade on Gaza and allow humanitarian aid to enter. The agreement also called for negotiations on a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.