Israeli police are implementing heightened security measures in the Old City of Jerusalem (left), following an unprecedented Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli civilians. Smoke is still rising from the debris after thousands of rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip, hit homes in southern Israel (center). In retaliation for Hamas’ brutal act of war, Israel has launched intense airstrikes in Gaza. More than 1,100 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the war, with another 1,200 Israelis slain. (AP Photos)

By DaQuan Lawrence,
AFRO International Writer,

Members of the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations (CCBJR) are weighing in on the latest deadly conflict overseas.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the nation is “at war” on Oct. 7 as Palestinian militants known as “Hamas” invaded numerous Israeli towns, brutally slaughtering hundreds,  taking hostages and firing thousands of rockets. 

“I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered – first of all – to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists,” said Netanyahu, in statements released to the press. “I call on the citizens of Israel to strictly adhere to the directives of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and Home Front Command. We are at war and we will win it.” 

Members of the CCBJR issued a statement on the tragic situation. The caucus is co-chaired by Congresswoman Nikema Williams (Ga.-05), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.-25) and Congressman Wesley Hunt (Texas-38).

“As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the brazen Hamas attack on Israel. Israel has the unequivocal right to defend itself and its people. We stand with Israel and our hearts go out to the families and communities affected by the senseless acts of terrorism and hope to see a swift and safe return of those held hostage. The bond between the United States and Israel is, and will always be, ironclad,” read the CCBJR statement. 

“Additionally, while we have no indication of specific domestic anti-Semitic threats related to the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, if the past is a guide for the future, the coming days could be a precarious time for the American Jewish community. We call on the U.S. Government, particularly its law enforcement agencies, to take swift concrete steps to protect our communities.”

During the early morning hours of Oct. 7, the 75-year-old state of Israel endured one of the most significant invasions of its modern territory in the previous five decades, after suspected militants from Gaza coordinated a devastating assault in Southern Israel. 

After the unprecedented turn of events, Netanyahu addressed the country and the world. 

“Citizens of Israel, we are at war. Not an operation… at war! This morning Hamas initiated a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by the Israeli government.

Dozens of Palestinian paramilitary fighters infiltrated the nation from Gaza on multiple fronts via air, land and sea. Fighting has commenced in various communities near the Gaza Strip including Be’eri, Re’im and Sderot, while hostages have been held in Be’eri and Ofakim. 

Ashriel Moore, a resident in Tel-Aviv, discussed the ongoing situation with the AFRO, as well as the nuances of being a member of the African Diaspora who has settled in the modern state of Israel. Moore was scheduled to speak with the AFRO about being Black in Israel on the morning of Oct. 7, but the turn of events quickly changed the topic of the meeting.

YouTube video
AFRO Editorial staff interview Black Tel Aviv Resident, Ashriel Moore October 9, 2023

“We woke up to about 2,000 rockets being launched from the Gaza Strip into the heart of the cities here in Israel,” Moore said via a phone interview on the morning of Oct. 7.  “We were awakened by alarm sirens and we were notified that more than 100 terrorists had infiltrated the borders of Israel by air—through parachutes— and on the ground border.”

Moore is a member of a unique group of people of African descent who settled in Israel in the 1960s under the leadership of the late Ben Ammi Ben-Israel. The group calls itself the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, a group different from the Hebrew Israelites seen in America. 

Despite the political regime that governs the nation and the religious and ethnic background of military and governmental leaders, Moore emphasized that Black Israelis, or members of the African Diaspora who have settled in Israel, should be entitled to safety amid the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. 

“It’s our responsibility to explain what’s going on in Israel from an Afrocentric perspective so the conflict isn’t viewed as ‘a war between Hamas and White Israel,’ because those rockets being shot from Gaza affect me just as much as they affect anybody else who lives here,” Moore said. 

According to the website of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Group (Hamas), Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’ military arm, declared that the assault was in response to several recent and historic points of conflict, including violence at Al Aqsa, the disputed Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount, increasing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians as well as the growth of settlements. 

Deif said the recent attack is merely the start of “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm” and called on Palestinians between east Jerusalem and northern Israel to join the fight. Deif also cited the ongoing 16-year blockade of Gaza and Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year as reasons for the surprise attack.  

According to the IDF, fighting continued into the early evening in at least five places throughout the southern parts of the country, and Israel had retaliated with strikes on Gaza cities. IDF said that it has struck several terrorist forces around southern Israel and numerous sites that belong to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

Israeli Air Force fighter jets and drones attacked 17 military compounds, four headquarters as well as two residential towers that the Israeli military believes stores Hamas assets according to the IDF. As reported by The Times of Israel, the IDF allegedly notified residents of the two buildings before they began their assault. 

Members of the international community, foreign nations and national leaders have weighed in on the latest events in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a statement released by officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which recently held discussions with the U.S. about re-establishing bilateral relations with Israel, the Middle Eastern nation called for both sides to exercise restraint. 

The kingdom said it had continually cautioned both sides about “the dangers of the situation exploding as a result of the continued occupation [and] the Palestinian people being deprived of their legitimate rights.”

U.S. President Joe Biden condemned Palestinian militants, declaring the events an “appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza” in a statement released by the White House. According to the Biden administration, the president spoke with Netanyahu and  said Israel “has a right to defend itself and its people.” 

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group congratulated Hamas, applauding the attack as a response to “Israeli crimes.” The Lebanese group said it was in contact with Hamas about the operational planning of the latest attack. 

Despite the potential of further escalation as Israel declared a state of war, Moore said he has hope both sides of the conflict can reach a peaceful resolution. 

“We believe in principles that could lead to a better solution to the current situation we have in Israel, but the problem is that on both ends, you have people who are actually benefiting from this current situation,” Moore told the AFRO. 

“Some people [in] the conflict don’t want to find a solution,” he added. “They prefer for this to continue going on and we don’t support that at all.” According to reporting from Al Jazeera, the Israeli death toll due to attacks by Hamas reached 1,200 on Oct. 10, while the Palestinian casualties from Israeli attacks numbered 1,100. More than 5,000 more people have been injured by fighting in the region. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported Oct. 11 that “about 60 percent of the injuries occurred by the Israeli airstrikes were among women and children in the Gaza Strip.”