Local elected officials on Saturday, including Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker publicly denounced news of a surprise air and land attack on Israel by Hamas militants that is believed to have left hundreds dead in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
According to The Associated Press, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip, where they roamed for hours, gunning down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response. Gunbattles continued well after nightfall, and militants held hostages in standoffs in two towns.
The Israeli rescue service Zaka said at least 200 people were killed and 1,100 wounded, making it the deadliest attack in Israel in decades. At least 232 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed and at least 1,700 wounded in Israeli strikes, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Hamas fighters took an unknown number of civilians and soldiers captive into Gaza, a deeply sensitive issue for Israel.
“The deadly attacks against civilians today are alarming and truly heartbreaking,” Johnson said in a statement. “Members of the Israeli and Palestinian Diasporas in Chicago and around the world deserve to know that their families and loved ones can live in a communities comforted with peace and with dignity, something that has not often been a reality in the region.
“This horrific cycle of violence and trauma must end. It’s time for a just and lasting peace that recognizes the humanity of our Israeli and Palestinian siblings, and the right to prosperity for future generations.”
In his own statement, the governor condemned the “horrifying attacks on Israel by Hamas and extend my support for those whose families and loved ones have been killed and injured in this terrorist attack today,” according to a statement posted on social media. “In Illinois and across America, the people of Israel are in our prayers.”
The attack comes at a time of historic division within Israel over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to overhaul the judiciary. Mass protests over the plan have sent hundreds of thousands of Israeli demonstrators into the streets and prompted hundreds of military reservists to avoid volunteer duty — turmoil that has raised fears over the military’s battlefield readiness and raised concerns about its deterrence over its enemies.
The early morning attack led Jewish members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Illinois General Assembly to each make statements showing solidarity with Israelis.
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself—to protect its people and communities—and will do all we can to ensure Israel has the ability and capacity to restore and maintain its security and the safety of all its citizens,” said a statement from 24 members of the House, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston.
The 15-member General Assembly Legislative Jewish Caucus also expressed shock and sadness at the conflict. “The totality of the loss of life is not yet clear, but we unequivocally condemn this deprivation of innocent life. We pray for peace on this Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, knowing there are thousands of Israeli brothers and sister who are being deprived of their peace right now,” the statement read.
On the site formerly known as Twitter, Yinam Cohen, consul general of Israel to the Midwest didn’t address the crisis directly, but did thank supporters. “The situation in Israel is still unfolding. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the communities in the south of Israel.”