Prime Minister Netanyahu says attacks on Gaza are “just beginning”; army calls up 300,000 reservists. Terrorists threaten to murder hostages if Israel continues unannounced bombardments of the territory.
Israel has stepped up its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, as Hamas terrorists threatened to murder hostages if Israeli forces continued to bombard the population without warning.
By Monday evening (09/10), the total death toll in the conflict, which has now lasted more than three days, had risen to more than 1,600.
“Every attack without warning to our people will be followed by the execution of one of the civilian hostages,” said a spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassimi brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, in a message released on Monday. He said that Hamas would not negotiate the return of the hostages while it was under attack.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen warned that “war crimes like these will not be forgiven”. As of Monday evening, around 900 people, including 73 soldiers, had died in Israel. In Gaza, the authorities counted more than 680 dead. Thousands of people have been injured on both sides of the conflict.
The Israeli Armed Forces claimed to have regained control of towns and villages that had been occupied by Hamas. The militants, for their part, said they had taken more than 130 hostages in their incursions into Israeli territory.
Israeli tanks and drones were sent to ensure security in places where fortified border fences had been breached during the attacks.
Thousands of Israelis were evacuated from the border region. Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari reported that 15 of the 24 border communities have been evacuated, with the population of the remaining locations expected to be evacuated on Tuesday.
The UN estimates that 123,000 people in Gaza have had to leave their homes since the conflict began three days ago. Many of them fled after receiving warnings of attacks from Israel.
“Attacks are just beginning”
The Israeli military has announced the call-up of 300,000 reservists, suggesting that Tel Aviv is preparing a major ground offensive.
“Our attacks on Hamas have only just begun,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday. “What we do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate in them for generations.”
Earlier in the evening, explosions were heard in Jerusalem after a salvo of rockets fired from Gaza hit two neighborhoods in the city. The Israeli press reported a total of seven people injured in the attacks.
The Israelis bombarded the Rimal commercial and residential district in Gaza, after issuing warnings to the population to leave the area. The Palestinian Telecommunications Company building was destroyed.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the imposition of a total siege on the Gaza Strip. He said the authorities would cut off electricity and block the delivery of food and fuel, depriving a population of 2.3 million people of essential resources.
Gallant said that Israel is at war with what he called “animals” and that the military would act accordingly, using the dehumanizing language employed by both sides amid heightened tensions.
Civilian and military prisoners
Rear Admiral Hagari told reporters that Israeli bombardments take place from district to district to destroy houses and buildings allegedly used by Hamas.
Israel plans to hit thousands of targets, he said. Hundreds of Israeli militants are said to be buried under the rubble of the sites destroyed in the last 48 hours, he said. His claims, however, could not be confirmed.
A Hamas spokesman told the Associated Press news agency that militants continue to fight in enemy territory and that even more Israeli hostages were captured on Monday.
These include soldiers and civilians, including women and children. Most of the hostages are Israeli nationals, but there are also people from other countries.
Hamas’ aim, according to the spokesman, is to negotiate the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
rc (AP, AFP, DPA)