Israel Refuses To Restore Power, Fuel, And Water To Gaza Until Hostages Are Released
Israel refuses to restore power, fuel, and water to Gaza until hostages are released, saying that it will not consider a humanitarian ceasefire. This has raised concerns about the rapidly depleting resources such as water, food, and fuel after another night of intense bombardment.
Israel's Energy Minister, Israel Katz, made it clear on social media that no essential services, including electricity, water, and fuel supply, would resume until the release of the "abductees." The United Nations experts have strongly condemned the Israeli bombings, classifying them as "collective punishment," which is considered a war crime. The decision not to restore electricity occurred while the United Nations was urging Israel to permit the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Israel is currently making preparations for a ground incursion in response to the violent attacks carried out by the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, in 20 Israeli communities over the past weekend. These attacks resulted in numerous hostages being taken, marking the most significant escalation in the region in the last half-century.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv as part of his Middle East tour, expressing strong support for Israel. This visit came after the delivery of US munitions to Israel on the previous night.
You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to. We will always be there by your side.- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Benjamin Netanyahu
During the same period, the Israel Defense Forces conducted airstrikes that resulted in the loss of at least 33 lives in Gaza within a span of two hours, as reported by Al Jazeera's local correspondent. This brought the total death toll in Gaza to 1,354. The reporter explained that fighter jets had targeted residential homes in various areas, and search and rescue teams worked tirelessly to retrieve the bodies of the victims. In some areas, residents had to sift through debris with their own hands in search of survivors and casualties.
The report also highlighted the devastating impact of the conflict on Gaza. Six neighborhoods in the strip had been destroyed, with 18 healthcare facilities and 20 ambulances affected, and 11 healthcare workers had tragically lost their lives. This marked the most severe bombing campaign Gaza had endured in the 16 years since Hamas took control of the densely populated area, home to 2.3 million people.
Among the individuals suspected to have been abducted by Hamas is Sharona Harel, who was attending a music festival near the Gaza Strip on a Saturday. During the event, terrorists paraglided into the area and opened fire on the festivalgoers in the streets.
Sharona, a mother of two, sent a text message to her husband, Yotam, that morning, saying, "They are shooting at us. We are hiding."
In response to the distressing message, Yotam and his brother, Ohad Harel, embarked on a challenging journey of approximately an hour and a half to reach the festival. Their journey was marked by scenes of street violence and rockets being launched overhead, as Ohad recounted.
The United Nations reported a significant increase in the number of people displaced by the airstrikes, with a 30% surge in just 24 hours, bringing the total to 339,000. Approximately two-thirds of these displaced individuals sought refuge in UN schools. Palestinian media sources indicated that the bombings had resulted in the death of Mohammed Deif, the brother of Hamas's military commander, as well as a senior commander from Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
According to reports, residents in the strip had been informed that hospitals were now primarily accepting emergency cases. The Rafah crossing, Gaza's point of entry from Egypt, remained closed, and the sole power station had run out of fuel by Tuesday, leaving the region dependent on scattered private generators.
If fuel supplies aren't replenished, even these generators would cease to operate. The Red Cross has urgently called for fuel deliveries to prevent overwhelmed hospitals from becoming makeshift morgues.
In Israel, the reported death toll had risen to 1,300. Lt Col Richard Hecht, a spokesperson for the Israeli military, informed reporters on Thursday that preparations for a ground assault were underway, but the political leadership had not issued the order as of yet. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who now leads a newly formed unity government and war cabinet including opposition members, has vowed to "crush and destroy" Hamas.
Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist National Unity party, a former defense minister and a strident critic of Netanyahu’s current far-right government, said: "We are all in this together. We are all enlisting. This is not a political partnership, but rather a unity of fate. This is the time to close ranks and to win."
Blinken is scheduled to visit Jordan, and Palestinian officials have stated that he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs parts of the West Bank.
Abbas, whose Fatah movement lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007, has refrained from condemning the attacks on Israel. Instead, he has attributed the violence to the long-standing neglect of Palestinian grievances and the 56-year-old occupation, calling on Palestinians outside Gaza to resist the Israeli military.
Blinken's visit comes at the same time as the arrival of a US aircraft carrier in the region. There are concerns that the recent events of the past week could escalate and potentially involve Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, as well as various Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank and the volatile city of Jerusalem. In the West Bank, confrontations have erupted between Palestinians and IDF troops, as well as Israeli settlers residing in the region.
The arrival of these highly capable forces to the region is a strong signal of deterrence should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to take advantage of this situation.- Gen Michael Kurilla, commander of the US central command
The emergency war cabinet must now make critical decisions regarding Israel's strategic objectives in Gaza. Contemplating a ground offensive, the first since a seven-week conflict in 2014, is likely to result in higher casualties on both sides, particularly in brutal house-to-house combat. Israel has taken unprecedented steps, mobilizing 360,000 reservists, deploying additional forces near the Gaza Strip, and evacuating tens of thousands of residents from neighboring communities.
Throughout the night, fighting persisted on Israeli soil near the Gaza border as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) worked to secure the breached security fence that had previously contained Hamas. Israeli media reported the deaths of eleven Palestinian militants in these clashes.
The complexity of strategic planning is further compounded by the presence of Israeli hostages, including children and the elderly, within the Gaza Strip. Israel's Army Radio, citing a foreign diplomat, revealed that the captives had been scattered across the enclave, with some held in private residences. Even the factions responsible were unsure about the total number of hostages, with Israeli media estimating the figure to be between 100 and 150.
As journalists gained access to the affected towns and kibbutzim this week, the extent of the devastation became increasingly evident. IDF officials reported entering homes where lifeless bodies lay strewn, encountering cases of women who had been subjected to violence and children who had been shot and burned.