Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “at war” and vowed that Hamas, Gaza’s rulers, will “pay a price it has never known”.
“This morning Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens,” he said in a video address.
At least 40 people have been killed in Israel after a major surprise attack with militants crossing into Israel from Gaza during heavy rocket fire.
Several Israelis have reportedly been taken back to Gaza as hostages.
Israel has responded with a wave of air strikes on targets in Gaza killing 198 people, Palestinian officials say.
This is one of the most serious escalations in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in years.
The attack by Hamas saw fighters cross the perimeter fence at just after dawn. At the same time, barrages of rockets were launched from Gaza – some reaching as far as the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
How the gunmen managed to penetrate one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world is unclear.
The Israeli military has said that dozens of fighter jets are carrying out air strikes on Hamas sites in Gaza, and it has hit 17 Hamas military compounds. It also said it has mobilised tens of thousands of reservists.
The Palestinian health ministry says 198 people have been killed in Israeli strikes. and another 1,610 have been wounded.
Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said a nurse and an ambulance driver were killed in Israeli strikes on two hospitals in Gaza.
The BBC understands that dozens of hostages, both military and civilian, have been taken by Hamas – an unprecedented development.
Some are thought to be holed up in some of the small towns near the Gaza Strip ,while others have been taken back into Gaza.
Hamas claims it has captured senior officers from Israel’s army.
Footage is also circulating of Palestinians in Gaza driving Israeli military vehicles.
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