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Israel declares ‘state of readiness for war’ as Hamas launches Operation Al-Aqsa Flood

Millions of Israelis have been instructed to stay near bomb shelters in their homes and apartment buildings.

The Israeli military on Saturday said it is striking targets in the Gaza Strip as air raid sirens sounded in Jerusalem after the Hamas militant group announced a new operation against Israel. The Israeli military said “a number of terrorists have infiltrated into Israeli territory”, without divulging further details.

Some videos posted on social media showed what appeared to be uniformed gunmen inside the Israeli border town of Sderot. The footage appeared to show clashes in city streets. The sound of gunfire could be heard in the videos, whose authenticity could not immediately be verified.

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Hamas’ armed wing declared that it had started “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”.

“We decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation (Israel), their time for rampaging without being held accountable is over,” the group said.

“We announce Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and we fired, in the first strike of 20 minutes, more than 5,000 rockets.”

Mohammad Deif, a senior Hamas military commander, in a broadcast called on Palestinians everywhere to join the fight.

“This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” he said.

The Magen David Adom emergency medical services confirmed that a woman in her 60s was killed “due to a direct hit” and 15 others were injured in southern Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was declaring a state of readiness for war following the massive barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and infiltration of Hamas militants into Israel.

The IDF said in a statement that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi was holding an assessment and approving plans of action, reported Times of Israel.

“Hamas… which is behind this attack, will bear the results and responsibility for the events,” the website quoted the IDF as saying.

At least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis and two foreigners have been killed so far this year in the conflict, including combatants and civilians on both sides, according to an AFP report citing Israeli and Palestinian officials.

(With inputs from agencies)

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