Israel-Hamas conflict death toll rise to almost 1,600; Hamas threatens to kill Israeli captives

Main pic caption: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest during the on-going conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas near the Israeli embassy in London on Oct 9, 2023 (Pic credit: Reuters)

THE Israeli military said on Monday it had called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip in a sign it may be planning a ground assault in response to the devastating weekend attack by Hamas gunmen.

After hours of intense bombardment by Israeli jets, Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, said it would execute an Israeli captive for every Israeli bombing of a civilian house without warning.

Inside Israel, Palestinian fighters were still holed up in several locations, two days after they killed hundreds of Israelis and seized dozens of hostages in a raid that shattered Israel’s reputation of invincibility.

Israeli TV channels said the death toll from the Hamas attack had climbed to 900 with at least 2,600 injured. Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave since Saturday.

The dead included citizens of Italy, Ukraine and the US where President Joe Biden announced on Monday that at least 11 Americans had been killed.

People hold flags during “Solidarity with Israel” demonstration organised by Jewish Youth, Danish Zionist Federation, KU and DSU at Israels Plads in Copenhagen, Denmark on Oct 9, 2023 (Pic credit: Reuters)

Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida said the group had been acting in accordance with Islam by keeping the Israeli captives safe but issued the threat to kill civilians and broadcast it.

Echoing Hamas, the Islamic Jihad armed wing which claimed it was holding more than 30 Israelis, asked Israel to refrain from hitting civilians if it cared about the fate of Israelis in its custody.

In Gaza, as Israel conducted intense retaliatory strikes, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant drew international condemnation by announcing a tightened blockade to prevent food and fuel from reaching the strip, home to 2.3 million people.

“Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment which is a war crime,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The Israeli air strikes became more aggressive as night fell with witnesses said several Hamas security headquarters and ministries were hit. The strikes destroyed some roads and houses.

Israel also bombed the headquarters of the private Palestinian Telecommunication Co which could affect landline telephone, internet and mobile phone services.

As it rained, explosions and lightning lit the skies, and the sound of bombings mixed with thunder.

In a further signal of Israel’s rapid shift to a war footing, a cabinet member from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party said it could set up a national unity government joined by opposition leaders within hours.

Netanyahu told mayors of southern towns hit by Saturday’s surprise assault that Israel’s response would “change the Middle East”.

At the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, men clambered onto a pancaked building to pull an infant’s tiny body from the rubble, carrying it down through the crowd below amid still-smouldering remains of bombed buildings.

That air strike killed and wounded dozens, according to the territory’s health ministry.

United Nation’s (UN) secretary-general Antonio Guterres said some 137,000 people were taking shelter with UNRWA, the UN agency that provides essential services to Palestinians. – Oct 10, 2020

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