Israel warns response ‘will change Middle East’ as Hamas threatens to kill captives

The Israeli military says it has called up an unprecedented 300,000 soldiers and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, in a sign it may be planning a ground assault in response to the devastating weekend attack by Islamist group Hamas.

Hamas gunmen were still holed up in several locations inside Israel three days after they killed 900 Israelis and abducted dozens more.

After hours of intense bombardment by Israeli jets, Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida said the group would execute Israeli captives if civilian houses were bombed without warning.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 687 Palestinians have been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli air strikes since Saturday.

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced a tightened blockade, which would prevent even food and fuel from reaching the strip, home to 2.3 million people.
As night fell, the Israeli air strikes became more aggressive, bombing the headquarters of the private Palestinian Telecommunication Co., which could impact land phone, internet and mobile phone services.

The strikes also destroyed some roads and houses and witnesses said several Hamas security headquarters and ministries were hit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told mayors of southern towns hit by Saturday’s surprise assault that Israel’s response would “change the Middle East”. Source: Getty / Abir Sultan

In a further signal of Israel’s rapid shift to a war footing, a cabinet member from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party said it could set up a national unity government joined by opposition leaders within hours.

Netanyahu told mayors of southern towns hit by Saturday’s surprise assault that Israel’s response would “change the Middle East”.

The prospect that fighting could spread to other areas has alarmed the region. Israeli soldiers “killed a number of armed suspects that infiltrated into Israeli territory from Lebanese territory”, the military said, adding helicopters “are currently striking in the area”.


Rockets fired by Hamas gunmen from Gaza City were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome defence missile system on 8 October 2023. Source: Getty / Eyad Baba

Beyond blockaded Gaza, Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia exchanged artillery and rocket fire, with Hezbollah saying three of its members were killed in Israeli fire on south Lebanon on Monday.

Appeals for restraint came from around the world, though Western nations largely stood by Israel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said some 137,000 people were taking shelter with UNRWA, the UN agency that provides essential services to Palestinians.

Israel’s chief military spokesman said troops had re-established control of communities inside southern Israel that had been overrun but that isolated clashes continued as some gunmen remained active.

“We are now carrying out searches in all of the communities and clearing the area,” chief military spokesman Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said.

The announcement that 300,000 soldiers had been activated in just a few days added to speculation that Israel could be contemplating a ground assault on Gaza.
Israel’s military, which faces awkward questions for not thwarting Saturday’s attack, said it had regained control of most infiltration points along security barriers, killed hundreds of attackers and taken dozens more prisoner.
“We have never drafted so many reservists on such a scale,” chief military spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said. “We are going on the offensive.”
The significant escalation is the latest boiling point in a long-standing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group that has gained power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006.

Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US while New Zealand and Paraguay list only its military wing as a terrorist group.

Other countries voted against a UN resolution condemning the whole of Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Iran is an ally of Hamas and while it congratulated Hamas on the attack, its mission to the United Nations said Tehran was not involved.

Major airlines suspend flights to Israel

Major international air carriers suspended or scaled back flights to or from Tel Aviv after a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israel on Saturday, saying they were waiting for safety conditions to improve.

About 50 per cent of scheduled Tel Aviv flights did not operate on Sunday and a third were cancelled on Monday, according to Flightradar24, a flight tracking website.

Israel’s national carrier El Al was the exception, adding more flights to bring soldiers back from around the world to assist in the country’s biggest mobilisation in history.

Scotland’s leader fears for wife’s parents in Gaza

Scotland’s leader Humza Yousaf says his wife’s parents are “trapped” in Gaza, leaving him worried if they will survive an attack by Israel.
The parents of Yousaf’s wife Nadia El-Nakla travelled from Scotland to Gaza to visit relatives when Hamas launched the weekend attack.
“They’re trapped in Gaza. They’re being told by the Israelis to leave Gaza, they’ve been told that Gaza will be effectively turned into rubble but they have nowhere to go, they can’t leave, Gaza is under a blockade,” Yousaf said in an interview with the BBC.

“Even with the assistance of the foreign office, they cannot guarantee any safe passage to any of the borders. Therefore, you can imagine my wife and I are sick with worry about whether or not, frankly, our parents – my in-laws – will survive,” he said.

Conditions in the West Bank have worsened under Netanyahu’s hard-right government, with more Israeli raids and assaults by Jewish settlers on Palestinian villages, and the Palestinian Authority called for an emergency Arab League meeting.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the assault would spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Gazans have lived under an Israeli-led blockade for 16 years, since Hamas seized control of the territory.

The United Nations has appealed for the creation of humanitarian corridors to bring food into Gaza and said at least 70,000 Palestinians in Gaza are seeking shelter in schools it runs.

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