Mideast War, Day 3: Israel Launches “Complete Siege” Of Gaza
Civilians in the crowded Palestinian enclave may be forced to face a long-term cut off of basic necessities, food and water. Is this an alternative to a ground war.
Forty-eight hours after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel, Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced Monday that he's ordered a "complete siege" on Hamas-run Gaza.
“We are putting a complete siege on Gaza […] No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed,” Gallant declared in a video statement. Israel controls the airspace over Gaza and its shoreline, and has wide power to be able to restrict the goods and services that flow across its border into the crowded enclave of 2.3 million people. Limited trade typically passes through Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, which has not yet commented on Israel’s announced siege.
Gaza residents are now saying that the entrances to towns and cities have been shut off with iron fences and cement blocks. New military checkpoints have also been installed, all pointing to a state of siege indeed being put in place. This comes on top of other responses from Israel following the surprise attack Saturday morning by Hamas, as gunmen breached security barriers and launched up to 5,000 rockets in an initial barrage. Israeli jet fighters launched retaliatory strikes in Gaza, with the death toll now rising to more than 700 Israelis killed and at least 500 on the Palestinian front, with thousands more injured on both sides.
Sieges have been used throughout history as a weapon of war, with dire and lasting consequences on populations. The Siege of Leningrad, for instance, lasted for 872 days during World War II, is believed to have killed 1.5 million, many by starvation. During the Siege of Sarajevo, which took place from 1992 to 1996 during the Bosnian War, some 14,000 people were killed — including more than 5,400 civilians, as a total blockade was imposed on the city.
As Israel decides how to retaliate against Hamas, it will no doubt be calculating in the impact of a hostage situation, as many Israelis are thought to be have been captured in Saturday's assault, and currently held in locations across Gaza. Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said during a news conference on Monday that “dozens” of people were taken hostage by Hamas, including elderly civilians, families and children. Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has warned that Israeli attacks in the area could pose a threat to hostages, with the Palestinian militant group claiming to be holding over 130 people captured in Israel. Hamas' head of international relations Basem Naim said the group is "committed and we are obliged to treat our hostages in a very human, dignified way."
What is not clear from Israel's siege announcement is whether it is seen as a preparation, or alternative, to an even more ambitious and dangerous strategy: a ground war to re-occupy Gaza.
Drone footage of festival massacre
NEW: The Post verified drone footage taken at the site of the Tribe of Nova trance music festival, near Kibbutz Reim — one of the first targets of Palestinian militants on Saturday and the scene of carnage. w/ @mmkelly22 @SarahCahlan https://t.co/RXKgEL4fiT pic.twitter.com/817EpG9G3X— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) October 9, 2023
Volunteers searching for bodies at the Supernova music festival site, where at least 260 people were killed on Saturday, have had to suspend their search because they are “under fire” from militants. Yossi Landau, a commander in the Zaka volunteer group, says his team of 25 have so far recovered 162 bodies from the site of the festival. Footage from Saturday showed the festival-goers running as the attacks began.
The festival site was in the Negev desert, near Kibbutz Re'im. It was not far from Gaza, from where Hamas fighters crossed over at dawn to launch their attack. They infiltrated towns and villages, taking dozens of people hostage.
Death toll is also international
Several countries around the world have confirmed that their citizens were either killed or kidnapped, days after Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel.
Ten students from Nepal were among those killed after Hamas’ surprise attack, said Nepal’s embassy in Tel Aviv in a statement on Sunday.
Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said that at least 12 of its citizens have been killed and 11 captured.
President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that two Ukrainian citizens have died in Israel and more than 100 citizens had contacted the country's embassy.
French lawmaker, Meyer Habib, who represents French people living abroad in a number of Mediterranean countries including Israel, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to confirm that at least eight French nationals were missing, confirmed dead or taken hostage.
Nine U.S. citizens have died in the conflict in Israel, a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson said Monday.
French cartoonist draws parallel with 9/11
In French daily Libération, cartoonist Corinne Rey, a.k.a. Coco, compares the weekend’s attacks on Israel to 9/11, pivoting the Israeli flag to turn its two blue stripes into the World Trade Center towers.
Austria, Germany to suspend aid to Palestine
Austria said on Monday it was suspending its aid to Palestinians in response to Islamist group Hamas's deadly attack on Israel. Meanwhile, Germany appeared to do the same, saying no aid payments were currently being made.
Further steps will be decided "in cooperation with the European Union and international partners", according to the head of Austrian diplomacy. He also announced that the Iranian ambassador had been summoned to the ministry to protest against "abominable reactions." Iran was one of the first countries to welcome Hamas's massive surprise attack on Saturday.
123,000 displaced in Gaza due to fear and destroyed homes
Destroyed buildings and homes in Gaza
The United Nations says 123,538 people in Gaza have been internally displaced, mostly "due to fear, protection concerns and the destruction of their homes". The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added that 73,000 people are sheltering in schools. There are currently 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza.
Before launching its retaliatory air strikes on Saturday, Israel warned people living in certain areas to leave. "I'm telling the people of Gaza: get out of there now, because we're about to act everywhere with all our force," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
Italy, Jordan seen as possible intermediaries
Though the question of negotiations is premature, limiting the escalation and bloodshed will require the international community to find a channel for mediation. Italian daily La Stampa reports that Italy is ready to make itself available as a country that both parties could potentially speak with. As compared to some other European capitals, Rome is not looked at suspiciously by Israeli authorities. “At the moment, we don’t have any negative indications about Italians in Israel,” said Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.
Middle Eastern neighbor Jordan is also seen as a possible channel for truce talks. Indeed, Tajani confirmed that he was speaking Monday afternoon with his counterpart in Amman, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Hsafadi. “We’ve condemned the barbaric attack against Israel,” Tajani said. “De-escalation and humanitarian corridors for the release of prisoners in Gaza are at the center of the conversation. Jordan is a crucial country for the stability of the region."
Front pages from around the world
The vast majority of newspapers around the world are dedicating their front pages to the sudden escalation of violence in the Middle East, check our international collection.
Rumors of Russian involvement
Russia has been accused of involvement in the Hamas operation, though no evidence has emerged to confirm the reports, according to independent Russian news outlet Agents Media. Writing in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, retired British Army Colonel Richard Kemp said that “unwilling to engage directly with NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin is instead fueling conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Serbia and Kosovo, West Africa, and now Israel.”
Meanwhile, the American Institute for the Study of War has suggested that Russia might benefit from the shift in international attention away from its atrocities in Ukraine and towards the deteriorating situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Israel is expected to launch a ground assault into Gaza in the coming days, while tensions remain high in the occupied West Bank and along the border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah enjoys de facto control.
Oil prices rise following Hamas attack on Israel
Oil prices have risen, following concerns that the situation in Israel and Gaza could disrupt output from the Middle East. Brent crude, the international benchmark, climbed by $2.25 a barrel to $86.83, while U.S. prices also rose. Israel and Palestinian territories are not oil producers but the Middle Eastern region accounts for almost a third of global supply.
A spokesperson for Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, told the BBC that the group had direct backing for the move from Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers.
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