As the Gaza Strip-based Hamas militant group launched an early morning attack on Israel, firing thousands of rockets into Israel, air raid sirens blazed across the country, signaling another round of fierce fighting between the two sides.
In the most significant escalation since Israel and Hamas engaged in an 11-day conflict in 2021, the Palestinian militant group Hamas has begun “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” against Israel.
The first rockets were launched at around 6 a.m. on Simchat Torah, a holiday that falls towards the end of the seven-day Jewish celebration known as Sukkot.
Shortly after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message posted to Platform X that the country was at war after a spate of surprise attacks.
It came after several casualties of Israeli citizens were reported, and reports alleged that at least 5,000 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip in Palestine to Israel. As the hours passed, the figure of rockets was revised to 2,200.
The first reports of the Hamas attack were accompanied by a video posted to social media showing an Israeli Merkava IV tank burning after being struck by a rocket.
אנחנו במלחמה. pic.twitter.com/XNM3l7fEQH
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) October 7, 2023
The tank was identified as a Merkava Mk4M Main Battle Tank (MBT), known to be one of the finest MBTs in the world.
Shortly after the footage went viral, one video emerged on social media and sparked a frenzy, showing that a drone dropped a grenade on Israel’s Merkava tank. The location of this attack was determined to be somewhere near the Gaza-Israel border.
Tank Merkava Mk 4M Israel dilumpuhkan oleh milisi Palestina, yang hari ini melakukan infiltrasi dan serangan besar-besaran di dalam wilayah yang sebelumnya dikuasai oleh Israel. Serangan saat ini masih berlanjut, saya akan terus memberikan kabar perilah "situasi panas" di sana 🙏 pic.twitter.com/kE5yKHCFTY
— Random World War (@RandomWorldWar) October 7, 2023
Military watchers conducting a preliminary analysis of the video noted that the raised armored shutters that shield the anti-missile launchers when they are not in use are a sign that Israel was caught off-guard by the attack.
The Trophy HV active defense systems were likely inoperable, demonstrating that the Israelis were ambushed unexpectedly and did not have enough time to respond. Several netizens noted that the tanks looked not entirely ready for battle, as a cover could be seen on the end of the cannon barrel.
— Middle East Observer (@ME_Observer_) October 7, 2023
Another video was published shortly after, allegedly by the Hamas themselves, showed the moment they fired rockets inside Israeli territory and infiltrated to the other side from the Gaza strip in the wee hours of the morning.
The infiltration was followed by the militants destroying and capturing an unknown number of tanks belonging to the Israel Defense Force (IDF).
One video showed when the tank crew was pulled out of a burning Merkava tank. Although the two tank crew visible in the footage are only being dragged, gunshots are heard in the background, signaling that at least some were executed after being captured. Several videos have since been published showing Hamas capturing several abandoned Israeli tanks.
The first minutes of Operation Al-Aqsa Storm on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The militants can be seen blowing up the wire fences and getting inside on motorcycles. Afterwards, they pull out the still living crew from the tank that was shot down by the drone.… pic.twitter.com/nqDyij5P3T
— — GEROMAN — time will tell – 👀 — (@GeromanAT) October 7, 2023
As the attacks continued and the Hamas militants advanced, reports indicating the slaughter of the Israeli citizens in the border areas emerged on the internet.
At the time of writing this report, at least 22 Israelis were killed, a figure cited by Israel’s local media outlets that referred to the tally presented by emergency services.
The Israeli Army said it had launched the “Operation Iron Swords” against the Hamas group in the Gaza Strip. Several fighter jets of the IDF have reportedly taken to the skies to bombard the region where Hamas is based.
However, previous attacks show several Palestinian citizens will likely become casualties in the attack launched by one militant group.
When Al Jazeera asked why the surprise attacks were launched, Khaled Qadomi, a Hamas spokesman, said it was a cumulative response to all the crimes Palestinians have endured.
As Hamas called on all Palestinians to take up arms for freedom, pro-Palestine netizens and analysts likened the attack to the third Intifada, the famous rebellion by the Palestinians.
Even as Israeli rockets hit Gaza and a gun battle raged inside Israel, the visuals of Hamas attacking and destroying Israel’s Merkava tanks have become a defining moment of this conflict. The Israeli Merkava is believed to be a formidable war machine and among the best in the whole world.
Israel’s Formidable Merkava Tanks Are Burning
Only a few nations have demonstrated their ability to produce their main combat tanks in the last four decades. Israel is one of these tank powers and is believed to have produced one of the best-designed tanks ever, i.e., the Merkava series.
A modern tank has three characteristics: firepower, mobility, and defense. Israel, on its part, has protection above anything else. Due to Israel’s tiny size, even minor wartime fatalities were felt intensely. Therefore, a focus on protection would limit human casualties.
The Trophy active-protection system defends the Merkava IV by shooting down opponent tank gun rounds, rockets, and anti-tank guided missiles using turret-mounted sensors and explosively produced projectiles.
The trophy has a history of success in warfare, having protected numerous Merkava IV tanks against Hamas anti-tank guns during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014.
Due to the increased risk of ATGM penetration from any opening in the turret roof, it is the only modern tank without a loader’s hatch. Because tank rounds are kept in separate fire-proof canisters, cook-offs are less likely in the event of a tank fire.
As opposed to hydraulic turrets, which employ flammable liquid that burns if the turret is penetrated, the turret is powered by electricity. It is also “dry” because no active rounds are kept inside of it.
To make the tank more difficult for heat sensors and radar to detect and target, some features from the Lavi program were carried over, including hull shaping, exterior non-reflective paints (reducing radar cross-section), and shielding for engine heat plumes mixing with outside air (reduced infrared signature).
The current tank, the Merkava IV, retains the Merkava I’s design priorities and incorporates a new redesigned turret, explosive reactive armor, and modular passive armor for quicker battle damage repair.
It mounts a giant 120-millimeter main gun with fifty-eight rounds, including the LAHAT anti-tank guided missile, eighteen more rounds than the Merkava I.
Ironically, the Israeli tanks were struck and burnt in an attack launched by Hamas, a militant organization technologically and militarily inferior to the massive, cutting-edge IDF. Several tanks are said to be now in the possession of the Hamas. More reports are awaited.
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