The protracted, often bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which broke out into hot war on Oct. 7, 2023, when the militant Palestinian group Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel and Israel retaliated by bombarding the Gaza Strip, dates back to the early 20th century when British authorities facilitated the mass immigration of Jews to Palestine, and ultimately the forcible displacement of Palestinian Arabs by Zionist militias, to establish a Jewish homeland there. In the current Israel-Hamas war, more than 11,000 people, the vast majority of them Palestinians, have been killed since Oct. 7. The internet is rife with war-related misinformation, which Snopes, as always, is dedicated to countering with facts and context. You can help. Read our latest fact checks about the ongoing conflict. Submit questionable rumors you’ve encountered. Become a Snopes Member to support our work. We welcome your participation and feedback.
On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas (acronym for "Islamic Resistance Movement" in Arabic) broke out of Israel's security border walls surrounding Gaza and launched an attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers, killing approximately 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostages. Israel responded by launching an all-out war on the people of Gaza, killing more than 13,000 people as of this writing. What follows is a detailed account of what transpired on Oct. 7 and the weeks following.
What Happened on Oct. 7, 2023?
At 6:30 a.m. local time, the first round of rockets were launched from Gaza into southern Israel, as far north as Tel Aviv. Hamas, the group that has held control of Gaza since 2007, claims that it launched 5,000 rockets in total. The group also sent fighters on motorbikes, on foot, and by hang glider into Israeli towns – as well as to a music festival – killing approximately 1,200 people, including men, women, and children, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry. The attacks occurred on Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday during the festival known as Sukkot, and marked the deadliest attack on Israel since 1973.
Hamas also took around 240 Israeli hostages and were holding them in Gaza, as of this writing. On Oct. 30, Hamas released a video in which an Israeli hostage addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: "You promised to free us all. Instead we bear your political and military failure."
Hamas spokesperson Khaled Qadomi told Al Jazeera that the attacks occurred in response to "all the atrocities the Palestinians have faced over the decades," and that the international community needed to "stop atrocities in Gaza, against Palestinian people, [and] our holy sites like Al-Aqsa. All these things are the reason behind starting this battle."
The day after Hamas launched its attack, Oct. 8, the U.N. Security Council met to discuss the attacks and Israel's response. "The era of reasoning with these savages is over," Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan told reporters, according to Reuters. "Now is the time to obliterate Hamas terror infrastructure, to completely erase it, so that such horrors are never committed again."
What Has Followed Oct. 7?
On the evening of Oct. 7, Netanyahu released a video addressing the "citizens of Israel," saying: "We are at war, not in an operation or in fighting rounds, but at war." Israel was formally authorized to take "significant military steps," according to Article 40 of Israel's Basic Law, upon officially declaring war.
Within the first six days of the war, Israel claimed to have dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza. Overnight, the Israel Electric Corporation cut electricity to Gaza (80% of Gaza's electricity is controlled by Israel). Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he had ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, cutting off food and fuel from entering Gaza in addition to electricity.
On Oct. 13, Israel issued an evacuation order to the some 1 million civilians in northern Gaza, drawing strong backlash from human rights organizations, given the impossibility of safe evacuation. While Israel maintained that an invasion of northern Gaza was necessary to "target underground Hamas hideouts," Palestinian and some Egyptian officials expressed fears that the move was a part of a strategic plan to eventually push the Gazan population out in its entirety through the southern border with Egypt.
Four days later, on Oct. 17, Israel began bombing areas of southern Gaza, killing many of the families who had fled from the north as per the evacuation order. Later that evening, an explosion at Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital killed hundreds. Neither Israel nor Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) took responsibility, although the World Health Organization (WHO) offered evidence that Israel issued evacuation orders to hospitals in the area, warning them of strikes.
The first convoy of 20 trucks carrying medicine, medical equipment, and some food entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt on Oct. 20, nearly two weeks after the conflict began. Rafah crossing – for pedestrians only – is the only Gaza border crossing not controlled by Israel, and it fluctuated between allowing people to cross out of Gaza and being closed, largely trapping Gazans, due to an unspecified "security circumstance."
A week later, on Oct. 27, Israel almost completely shut off Gaza's internet and cellphone service – with Palestinian telecommunication companies also shutting down due to lack of fuel – before launching a ground invasion into northern Gaza, clashing with Hamas fighters.
Over the next week, Israel bombed the areas surrounding Al-Quds Hospital (where 14,000 civilians were sheltered) after issuing an evacuation order; blocked major roadways such as the Salah al-Din road connecting northern and southern Gaza; and bombed Jabalia, the largest refugee camp in Gaza (the camp was bombed again on Nov. 1, Nov. 4, and Nov. 18). Additionally, an Israeli missile struck a convoy of ambulances in front of Al-Shifa Hospital, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
On Nov. 15, Israeli forces invaded the Al-Shifa Hospital, in which 650 patients were being cared for, and later claimed that they found Hamas operation headquarters as well as weapons, grenades, and ammunition underneath the building. Hamas denied the claims as "lies and cheap propaganda."
Internet and telecom services had been partially restored in Gaza as of Nov. 17 after Israel announced that it would allow two trucks of fuel a day into the enclave for the U.N. and for communication, half of what the U.N. said would be necessary to power Gaza's water systems, hospitals, bakeries, and the trucks delivering aid.
Violence also continued to escalate in the West Bank, home to about 3 million Palestinians, in what has been the deadliest year in the past two decades for Palestinians, even before Oct. 7.
It's important to note that Israel and the Palestinian Authority control West Bank, not Hamas. The Israeli military and Israeli settlers in the West Bank reportedly worked in conjunction to kill more than 200 Palestinians. Palestinians killed four Israelis since Oct. 7 in the area. Assaults on villages across the West Bank forced the displacement of more than 1,000 people, with one Palestinian in the West Bank writing in The New York Times that "under the cover of war, settlers have been storming villages in the West Bank, threatening Palestinians and destroying their homes and their livelihoods."
In total, more than 13,000 Palestinians – more than 5,500 of whom were children – in Gaza had been killed as of this writing, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.