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Hardline stance for Hamas, IDF amid air strikes

Palestinian terrorists from the Hamas group, which dragged off about 150 people in its surprise weekend assault on Israel, threatened to execute the hostages if Israeli air strikes continue targeting Gaza residents without warning.

Israel, however, “won’t be negotiating with anyone at this crisis time in the country,” Lior Haiat, the spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday in a video conference call.

He said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) “will do everything to regain security” and that Hamas “will not be allowed to launch another attack on Israel.”

Hamas will also not negotiate with Israel on hostages while under continued airstrikes by the Jewish nation, Abu Obaida, spokesperson for al-Qassam Brigades — the group’s armed wing – told CNN.

The threat came after Israel on Monday imposed a total siege on the Gaza Strip, cutting off food, water, and electricity supplies, and sparking fears of an increasingly dire humanitarian disaster.

Israel has been left reeling from Hamas’s unprecedented ground, air, and sea attacks, likening them to 9/11.

Israel pounded Hamas targets in Gaza Tuesday and said the bodies of 1,500 Islamist militants were found in southern towns recaptured by the army in grueling battles near the Palestinian enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Israel’s military campaign following Saturday’s surprise mass onslaught was only the start of a sustained war to destroy Hamas and “change the Middle East.”

Fears of a regional conflagration have surged amid expectations of an Israeli ground incursion into the crowded Palestinian Gaza Strip from where Hamas launched its land, air and sea attack on the Jewish Sabbath.

The death toll in Israel has surged above 900 from the worst attack in the country’s 75-year history, while Gaza officials have reported 687 people killed so far.

Netanyahu compared the large-scale slaughter of Israeli civilians to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, when they controlled vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.

“Hamas terrorists bound, burned and executed children,” a seething Netanyahu said in a televised address to the grieving nation late Monday. “They are savages. Hamas is ISIS.”

The veteran leader at the helm of Israel’s hard-right coalition also called for an “emergency government of national unity” after years of political crisis and bitter societal divisions.

The Israeli army has called up 300,000 reservists for its “Swords of Iron” campaign and massed tanks and other heavy armor both near Gaza, and on the northern border with Lebanon.

The military said its forces had largely reclaimed the embattled south and the border around Gaza in grueling battles with holdout Hamas terrorists in around a dozen towns and kibbutzim. AFP

Threat to kill hostages

The United States — which reported 11 of its own citizens killed, and more missing in the spiraling conflict — stressed its full support for Israel, as did Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

The five Western powers and many other nations have reported citizens killed, abducted, or missing, also including Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Paraguay, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand, and Ukraine.

Hamas has held around 150 hostages since its ground incursion, among them children, elderly, and young people who were captured at a music festival where some 270 died.

On Monday, Hamas warned it would start killing hostages every time Israel launches a strike on a civilian target in Gaza without warning.

Fear and chaos reigned among the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the crowded and impoverished coastal territory that has been hammered by thousands of Israeli bombs.

Fireballs repeatedly lit up Gaza City before dawn on Tuesday as explosions shook the ground and sirens wailed.

Israel imposed a total siege on long-blockaded Gaza on Monday, cutting off the water supply, food, electricity, and other essential supplies.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply distressed” by the siege announcement and warned Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation will now “only deteriorate exponentially.”

The UN human rights chief Volker Turk said Tuesday that imposing “sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law.”

Turk said people’s dignity and lives had to be respected as he called for all sides to defuse the “explosive powder-keg situation.”

TAKING A BREATHER. Two Israeli soldiers lean on a painted wall of a structure in Kfar Aza, in the south of Israel bordering the Gaza Strip on October 10. Israel said the bodies of 1,500 Islamist militants were found in southern towns recaptured by the army in grueling battles near the Palestinian enclave. AFP

“International humanitarian law is clear: the obligation to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects remains applicable throughout the attacks,” Turk said in a statement.

Any restrictions on the movement of people and goods to implement a siege must be justified by military necessity or may otherwise amount to collective punishment, the statement added.

Israeli strikes have leveled residential tower blocks and mosques and wrought widespread destruction in Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, where on Monday many charred bodies were pulled from the rubble.

Three Palestinian journalists were killed early Tuesday in an Israeli air strike that hit a Gaza City residential building, a media union and a Hamas official said.

‘ISIS-level savagery’

Israel, which has long prided itself on a high-tech military and intelligence edge, has been shaken to the core after being blindsided by the massive attack.

Washington has pledged to send munitions and military equipment to back Israel and deployed an aircraft carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean.

The White House said there was no intention to put US boots on the ground, while also condemning the “ISIS-level savagery” of the Hamas attack.

Israel faced the threat of a multi-front war after two days of clashes on the northern border with Lebanon with militants from the Iran-backed Hezbollah movements.

Unrest has also surged in the occupied West Bank, where 15 Palestinians have died since Saturday.

Iran — which is openly committed to Israel’s destruction — praised the surprise attack by Hamas but repeatedly denied playing any role in it.

Hamas has called on “resistance fighters” in the West Bank and in Arab and Islamic nations to join what it has dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”

A senior US defense official said they “are deeply concerned about Hezbollah making the wrong decision and choosing to open a second front to this conflict.”

Global powers and regional governments including Egypt, Turkey, and Gulf states, have engaged in frantic diplomacy seeking to prevent any further escalation.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that the kingdom was working to ensure the conflict does not spread across the region, state media said Tuesday.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel against “indiscriminately” attacking civilians and also delivered measured criticism of Hamas, urging both sides to respect the “ethics” of war.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Tuesday reiterated that the Philippines recognizes Israel’s right of self-defense as its war with the Hamas group in Gaza rages on.

Manalo said the safety of the over 30,000 Filipinos living and working in Israel remains a priority for the Philippine government.

“We have already issued statements condemning the events, especially the targeting of civilians, and we’ve also recognized the right to self-defense of Israel in accordance with the United Nations Charter,” Manalo said in a press conference from Australia.

The Philippine Embassy in Israel, he said, is also working with authorities to confirm the veracity of reports of Filipinos allegedly kidnapped by Hamas.

There are still seven Filipinos unaccounted for, one of whom was seen being held by armed individuals on a video the embassy recently received.

Based on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ latest advisory, 22 out of the 29 distressed Filipinos in Israel have so far been rescued by Israeli forces.

In a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon interview, Israel Ambassador Ilan Fluss assured the Philippines that his government is committed to protecting foreigners there, including Filipinos.

“We’re committed to them the same as we are committed to the well-being of Israeli citizens. We do not discriminate,” he said. “They get the same protection and they should follow the same protocols. They live with us and amongst us.”

Fluss said Israel is now in the “final stages of stabilizing” the situation but there are still attempts by the Hamas group to enter Israel through the border by air, sea, and land.

The death toll since the deadly strike against Israel was launched has risen to more than 900 and is likely to increase, Fluss said.

“We still have some pockets where there are still some terrorists inside Israel. Towns and villages, all of them have been cleared out of the terrorists, but still there is no total freedom of movement there,” he said.

“The attacks against Israel are continuing. However, we’re trying to regain control and preparing ourselves for the next stage,” he added. — AFP

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