What exactly happened
Palestine's Hamas militants stormed from the blockaded Gaza Strip into nearby Israeli towns, killing dozens and abducting others in an unprecedented surprise attack during a major Jewish holiday on Saturday. A stunned Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza, with its prime minister saying the country is now at war with Hamas and vowing to inflict an “unprecedented price.”
Around 6.30 am (10 am IST), Palestinian militant group Hamas fired a huge barrage of rockets across southern Israel, with sirens heard as far away as Tel Aviv and Beersheba. Hamas claimed that it had fired 5,000 rockets in a first barrage. Israel's military said 2,500 rockets were fired.
Smoke billowed over residential Israeli areas and people sheltered behind buildings as sirens sounded. At least one woman was reported killed by the rockets.
“We announce the start of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and we announce that the first strike, which targeted enemy positions, airports, and military fortifications, exceeded 5,000 missiles and shells,” Mohammed Deif, head of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said.
At 7.40 am (11:10 am IST), Israeli military said that Palestinian gunmen had crossed into Israel. The barrage served as cover for an unprecedented multi-pronged infiltration of fighters.
Most fighters crossed through breaches in land security barriers separating Gaza and Israel. But at least one was filmed crossing on a powered parachute while a motorboat was filmed heading to Zikim, an Israeli coastal town and military base. Videos issued by Hamas showed fighters breaching the security fences, with the dim light and low sun suggesting it was at around the time of the rocket barrage, news agency Reuters reported.
A photograph released by Hamas showed a bulldozer tearing down a section of security fence.
At 9:45am (12:15 pm IST), blasts were heard in Gaza and at 10am (12:30 pm IST) Israel's military spokesperson said the air force was carrying out attacks in Gaza. Israel's military said at 10 am that Palestinian fighters had penetrated at least three military installations around the frontier - the Erez border crossing, the Zikim base and the Gaza division headquarters at Reim. It said fighting at Erez and Zikim continued.
Fighters raided the Israeli border town of Sderot and were reported to be in another border community, Be'eri, and the town of Ofakim 30km east of Gaza, according to Israeli media citing phone calls from residents.
Israel's military ordered residents to shelter inside, saying on the radio “we will reach you”.
By mid-morning, Israel's police chief Yaacov Shabtai said forces were engaging gunmen in 21 locations and at 1.30pm (4pm IST), the military said troops were still working to clear communities that had been overrun by gunmen.
Israeli news media reported at least 100 Israelis killed and 800 wounded. Hamas videos and unverified images circulating on social media showed dead civilians, Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters.
Israel's foreign ministry said Hamas gunmen had gone house-to-house killing civilians.
Israeli media has reported that gunmen have seized hostages in Ofakim. Islamic Jihad said it was holding several Israeli soldiers captive and Hamas social media accounts showed footage of appearing to show captives being taken alive into Gaza.
Hamas killed at least 300 Israelis and escaped with dozens of hostages in by far the deadliest day of violence in Israel since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago.
More than 230 Gazans were also killed when Israel responded with one of its most devastating days of retaliatory strikes. Fighting continued into the night.
"We will take mighty vengeance for this wicked day," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Hamas launched a cruel and wicked war. We will win this war but the price is too heavy to bear," he said. "Hamas wants to murder us all. This is an enemy that murders mothers and children in their homes, in their beds. An enemy that abducts elderly, children, teenage girls.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the assault that had begun in Gaza, a narrow strip that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians, would spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Gazans have lived under an Israeli blockade for 16 years.