Israel goes to war as Palestinian launches surprise attack 

The Islamist movement Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years on Saturday in a surprise assault on Isreal that combined gunmen crossing the border with a heavy barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip.

As warning sirens sounded across southern and central Israel, including in Jerusalem, Israel’s military said it was on a war footing as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of security officials.

One Israeli woman was killed, according to emergency services, as ambulance crews were deployed in areas around the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said its forces were operating inside Gaza but gave no details.

“A number of terrorists have infiltrated into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement, adding that residents in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip had been told to stay in their homes.

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Israeli media reported that gunmen had opened fire on passers-by in the town of Sderot, in southern Israel, and footage circulating on social media appeared to show clashes in city streets as well as gunmen in jeeps roaming the countryside.

Palestinian media also reported that a number of Israelis had been taken captive by fighters and Hamas media circulated video footage apparently showing a destroyed Israeli tank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he would meet top security officials in the coming hours and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant authorized the call-up of reservists.

In Gaza the roar of rocket launches could be heard and residents reported armed clashes along the separation fence with Israel, near the southern town of Khan Younis, and said they had seen significant movement of armed fighters.

Israel’s ambulance service said teams had been dispatched to areas in southern Israel near Gaza and residents were warned to stay inside.

A group representing military reservists who had planned to refuse to attend training over their objections to the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary called on reservists to report for duty.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared Saturday that the Palestinian terrorist group was on the “verge of a great victory” after the surprise attack on Israel from Gaza.

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