This story was updated on Sunday to reflect increased deaths, injuries, and hostages.
Israel is officially at war, declared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday.
Iran-backed Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza, launched a surprise attack against Israel in the early morning on Saturday that has killed over 1,200 Israelis and injured over 3,000 people as of 12 a.m. on Wednesday.
Alongside a rocket barrage hitting central and southern cities like Tel Aviv and Ashkelon, Hamas militants entered southern Israel, reportedly going home to home to terrorize and kill civilians in over 20 border towns like Sderot.
Hamas has also taken Israeli civilians and soldiers hostage, while also allegedly parading and desecrating dead bodies in graphic videos. The videos are unverified, though the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) top spokesman confirmed that Hamas took hostages. Over 100 Israelis were abducted to Gaza, with another 50 hostages on an Israeli kibbutz freed by the IDF.
Israel has responded with air strikes on Hamas infrastructure in Gaza. Reportedly, over 370 Palestinians have been killed, with another 1,600 injured. Over 3,000 rockets were fired by Hamas at Israel over the course of the first 15 hours.
“We are deeply grieved and profoundly concerned by the ongoing crisis that has engulfed our extended family in Israel,” said the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati in a statement. “Our hearts ache as we report the mounting casualties, with hundreds of people rushed to hospitals and countless homes and institutions devastated.
“The extent of this devastation is truly disgraceful and abhorrent, and we stand in unwavering solidarity with the people of Israel during this unimaginable and agonizing time.”
The Federation has created a fundraiser to help support humanitarian aid in Israel.
“While we are in the early stages of assessing the situation and the evolving needs, we want to assure our community that we are committed to providing the necessary support and assistance during this crisis,” the Federation said.
Israelis, Jewish communities worldwide, and other international onlookers are shocked at both the failure of Israel’s intelligence and military apparatus to see this attack coming on the Jewish High Holy Day of Shemini Atzeret.
The Hamas invasion was launched almost exactly 50 years after the surprise attack of the brutal Yom Kippur War, which caught Israel off guard and resulted in political scandal and the resignation of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir.
U.S. President Joe Biden and a host of other politicians, including those representing Cincinnati, have come out in support of Israel.
“Terrorism is never justified,” Biden said in a statement. “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. 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.”
Congressman Greg Landsman, who represents Cincinnati, tweeted that: “Hamas has invaded Israel, murdering Israelis in their homes. Over 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel. Reports of Israelis being taken hostage. Terrifying & infuriating. America stands with Israel & the Israeli people. May this horrific assault on Israel end quickly.”
Governor Mike Dewine declared a day of prayer for Israel. “We offer our support to the people of Israel and condemn this unjustified act by Hamas,” said Dewine.
Israel is mobilizing thousands of reservists as fighting continues and rockets continue to fall on Israeli cities and towns.
“We are at war, and we will win,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement on Israeli TV calling up Israel’s reserves.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, a fierce critic of Prime Minister Netanyahu, offered to form an emergency unity government to help Netanyahu manage the crisis – if Netanyahu booted his current government allies, widely seen as the most extremist in Israeli history. The Israeli opposition has come out in full support of Israel’s response against Hamas.
“At times like these, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel,” Lapid said in a statement. “We will give full backing to the security forces for a harsh response against terrorism and its proxies.”
There have been numerous unverified videos and photos published online showing fighting in Israeli towns, Hamas militants shooting at civilians in Sderot, and videos of Israeli hostages being abducted including an Israeli grandmother.
“Yoni Asher, an Israeli from the south of the country, reports his mother-in-law, wife & two toddler daughters have apparently been taken hostage by Hamas,” tweeted Noga Tarnopolsky, a longtime reporter on Israel and the Palestinian territories. “Streams of Israelis are on [the] radio, crying, begging for news of relatives who have vanished.”
Israelis are already coming together to address the crisis. There are reports that Israeli civilians have flocked to blood donation centers and have filled thousands of requests for blood donations.