Israeli missiles destroy a building in Gaza (Credit: Tasnim News Agency/ CC-BY-4.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel. The large-scale assault occurred in the early morning hours, just as Israelis were wrapping up the seven-day-long Jewish festival of Sukkot.

The multi-pronged strike was waged from the air, sea, and ground. The militants fired thousands of rockets toward Israeli towns. They simultaneously used bulldozers to break the 20-foot-high (6-meter) fortified fence between Israel and Gaza. Hundreds of Hamas fighters entered through the gaps in pickup trucks or on foot. Others stormed onto Israeli beaches in motorboats and through the smoke-filled air on paragliders. The militants killed about 1,200 people and took about 100 hostages.

Hamas fighters breached the strong fence between Gaza and Israel (Credit: Israel Ministry of Defence Spokesperson's Office)

Within hours of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas. The country retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza, killing at least 765 people and injuring thousands. The town of Beit Hanoun in Gaza's northeast corner has been destroyed, and over 100,000 residents have been rendered homeless. They also cut off access to food, water, and fuel to Gaza's residents. Israel is currently gathering troops at the border in what appears to be preparation for a ground attack.

Where is Gaza?

The Gaza Strip, or Gaza, is the smaller of two Palestinian territories (Credit: Ecrusized/ Influenced by user Rr016/, CC-BY-SA-4.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

The Gaza Strip, or Gaza, is the smaller of two Palestinian territories. The narrow enclave is surrounded by Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea. Measuring about 140 square miles (362 square km), it is one of the world's most heavily populated regions. Over two million people call Gaza home.

What is Hamas?

Hamas is an Islamist organization with a militant wing. The group believes Israel is an illegal state. Hamas wants to liberate the Palestinian territories and replace Israel with an Islamic state.

What is different about the latest Hamas attack?

Hamas has conducted numerous attacks against Israel since the 1990s. However, they usually involve throwing rockets over the Gaza border into Israel. Israel's missile defense system, nicknamed "Iron Dome," intercepts most, minimizing the impact on the country.

But the October 7 strike was different. It was very sophisticated and coordinated and required a lot of planning. This has led to speculation that another country helped Hamas. However, there is no proof of that yet.

What happens now?

The conflict is expected to escalate further in the next few weeks. The long-term strategies for both Hamas and Israel remain to be seen, but experts believe it is a no-win situation regardless of who prevails.

Tal Schneider is a political and diplomatic correspondent for The Times of Israel. He told NPR, "The war is not outside of Israel. It's inside Israel. I don't ever recall that in recent history. And I have to tell you, we [Israelis] are losing big time. They're [Palestinians] losing big time. It's a vicious circle of blood with no end in sight. A completely lose-lose situation. And it's just horrific."