Jerusalem, Oct 12 (EFE).- Israel’s energy minister warned Thursday that the total siege of the Gaza Strip would not be lifted until all of the hostages seized by Hamas militants are released.
At least 100 hostages were taken during Saturday’s unprecedented multi-pronged offensive by Hamas fighters.
Israel, which has responded with a relentless bombing campaign on Gaza, imposed the siege on Sunday, blocking the entry of food, water, humanitarian supplies and electricity to pressure Hamas into releasing the hostages.
“No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter,” energy minister Israel Katz said Thursday.
Israeli authorities have so far managed to identify 97 hostages, as the search for bodies continues in towns near Gaza that were caught off guard by the surprise Palestinian militant attack, which US president Joe Biden has described as the “deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”
The war unleashed six days ago has left more than 1,300 people dead in Israel and over 3,200 wounded. Some 5,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza in recent days.
Israeli airstrikes, which have razed entire neighborhoods in Gaza, have claimed at least 1,300 lives and wounded more than 6,000.
Israeli troops have also been amassing at the border with Gaza in preparation for an anticipated ground operation, with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning Wednesday that “every Hamas member is a dead man”.
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog blamed the entirety of Gaza for Saturday’s attack by Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, and said the intense bombing campaign has severely damaged civilian infrastructure and homes is justified.
“It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Herzog said during a press conference with foreign media on Thursday, dismissing arguments that civilians “were not aware” and “are not involved.”
“It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”
“Israel will do whatever it takes to defend its people with an iron fist to change the reality,” he continued, warning that “it would be a long and drawn out campaign.”
“We are operating militarily according to rules of international law,” Herzog insisted, responding to suggestions that Israeli forces were committing war crimes by sealing off the strip and destroying civilian infrastructure.
“We are at war. We are defending our homes. That’s the truth.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday that it has asked for security guarantees from Israel and Hamas to distribute medical supplies and fuel in Gaza so that hospitals can continue to function, warning that the situation is “unmanageable.”
“We’ve called on all parties who have an influence on this case, and especially Hamas, to treat people humanely, respect their dignity, allow them to contact their family and inform them about their situation,” said Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.
Carboni also called on Israeli authorities to lift the siege of Gaza, where the humanitarian situation was already extremely complicated since the Strip has been under blockade by Israel since 2006.
“Besieging areas like Gaza, more than two million people… is just not acceptable,” he said, pointing out that ICRC workers are unable to evacuate the wounded and that civilians do not have access to hospitals or health facilities.
“We won’t be able to sustain this situation without goods coming into Gaza. So there is really a need to make sure that there is a pause or that there are ways for supplies to go into Gaza.”
The ICRC urged “both sides to reduce the suffering of civilians”.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities have proposed setting up a temporary buffer zone near its border crossing with Gaza at Rafah to allow displaced people to flee the violence.
However, both Israel and Hamas have reportedly rejected the offer, Egyptian and Hamas officials told Efe. EFE