On Tuesday, Israel continued its lethal bombardment of Hamas-controlled Gaza after the Palestinian militant organisation threatened to murder some of the 150 prisoners it kidnapped in a weekend assault if air attacks continued without notice.
On Monday, Israel established a comprehensive embargo on the Gaza Strip, cutting off food, water, and energy supplies and raising fears that an already poor humanitarian situation may deteriorate rapidly.
Hamas’ unparalleled ground, air, and sea assault has left Israel reeling, eerily similar to the September 11, 2001 strikes on the United States.
The death toll in Israel has risen to almost 900, with Israel retaliating with a barrage of strikes on Gaza, pushing the dead toll to 687. Among the dead in Israel are dozens of foreigners, including at least 18 Thai employees.
Following Saturday’s huge breach by Palestinian militants, the Israeli army stated Tuesday that it had “more or less restored control” of the Gaza border. It said it had retrieved the bodies of about 1,500 Hamas militants inside Israel, confirming the severity of the attack on Saturday.
It claimed to have “nearly completed” the evacuation of Israeli towns along the border. As sirens wailed and explosions rang out, fireballs lit up Gaza City before daybreak on Tuesday.
Hamas to the Islamic State
On Monday, Hamas claimed that Israeli air strikes had killed four of its hostages. It later stated that it may begin murdering people on its own.
“Every unprovoked attack on our people will result in the execution of one of the civilian hostages,” Hamas’ military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, warned in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu linked Hamas to the Islamic State organisation, commonly known as ISIS, in a televised speech late Monday, and warned Israel intends to use “unprecedented force” against them. “Terrorists from Hamas bound, burned, and executed children.” They are barbarians. Netanyahu compared Hamas to ISIS.
He also promised to “strengthen other fronts in the north against Hezbollah,” where militants and Israeli forces clashed for the second day. Hamas fired further missiles as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where missile defence systems fired and air raid sirens blared.
Israel announced the mobilisation of 300,000 army reservists for its “Swords of Iron” campaign.
Israel will impose a “complete siege” on the long-blockaded enclave of 2.3 million people, according to Defence Minister Yoav Gallant: “No electricity, no food, no water, no gas — it’s all closed.”
The news of the closure has “deeply distressed” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has warned that Gaza’s already grave humanitarian situation will “only deteriorate exponentially.”
Israeli ground attack to destroy Hamas
Palestinians in the coastal area readied for what many expected to be a big Israeli ground attack to destroy Hamas and free the hostages.
Middle East tensions have risen as Israel’s arch foe, Iran, praised the Hamas strike, despite denying any direct involvement in the military operation.
Hamas has called on “resistance fighters” in the West Bank, as well as Arab and Islamic nations, to join “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
“The military operation is still ongoing,” Hamas spokesperson Hossam Badran told AFP from Doha, adding that “there is currently no chance for negotiation on the issue of prisoners or anything else.”
The surprise Hamas strike has shocked Israel to its core, and it now confronts the danger of a multi-front conflict.
The Israeli army stated on Monday that its soldiers had “killed a number of armed suspects” who had crossed the border from Lebanon, and that Israeli helicopters were attacking locations in the region.
Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group, later claimed responsibility for the foiled infiltration from Lebanon into Israel.
Iran-backed Hezbollah said that Israeli airstrikes on south Lebanon killed three of its members, causing the movement to react against two Israeli barracks “using guided missiles and mortar shells that hit them directly.”
It was the second day of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, which stated on Sunday that its strikes were “in solidarity” with Hamas.
“We are deeply concerned about Hezbollah making the wrong decision and choosing to open a second front in this conflict,” said a senior US defence official.
Washington, which has pushed its largest aircraft carrier and other warships closer to Israel in a show of support, has stated that it has no intentions to put US troops on the ground but is assisting its partner with captive retrieval attempts.
The Hamas strike breached the Gaza border fence, which had long been thought to be impregnable and guarded by surveillance cameras, drones, patrols, and watchtowers.
Hamas attackers launch RPG missiles
More than 270 dead, largely of young people, were found strewn around the site of a music festival in a Negev desert kibbutz, while more revellers were suspected to be among those taken into Gaza.
According to Israeli soldier Ephraim Mordechayev, he watched Hamas attackers launch RPG missiles into the crowd. “Imagine yourself using a rocket that is meant to fire on houses or tanks, fired on a group of 20 civilians,” he went on to say.
According to rescuers, the youthful festival-goers were “butchered in cold blood.” Inside Gaza, air strikes wreaked havoc on the Jabalia refugee camp, as burnt bodies were removed from the wreckage and family wept.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported three Palestinian journalists murdered in the conflict on Monday, with two photographers were reported missing since Saturday.
Israel not interested in diplomacy
Since Hamas gained control in 2007, Israel has blockaded Gaza, resulting in four prior battles. Israeli airstrikes have destroyed several residential tower blocks, as well as a huge mosque and the territory’s main bank structure.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees claimed it was sheltering more than 137,000 people in schools across Gaza. “The situation is unbearable,” Amal al-Sarsawi, 37, said from her terrified students’ classroom.
Protesting Palestinians battled with Israeli police in the West Bank, killing 15 Palestinians since Saturday. The escalating violence has had a worldwide impact, with oil prices increasing on fears of dwindling supply.
Chevron, a US energy company, said it had paused activities at a natural gas platform off the coast of Israel at the request of authorities.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, informed Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in a phone call early Tuesday that the Gulf nation was striving to keep the crisis from spreading across the region.
The European Commission stated that it was assessing its development assistance to the Palestinians, but added that no assistance had yet been suspended. Britain stated that it was conducting a similar review.
The United States and the European Union consider Hamas to be a terrorist organisation. According to some, the unprecedented nature of the Hamas attack may render any diplomatic efforts futile for the time being. Nonetheless, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is among those attempting. He conducted an urgent round of phone diplomacy on Monday.
Erdogan urged Israel against bombing people “indiscriminately” and provided measured criticism of Hamas, encouraging all parties to uphold the “ethics” of conflict.