Hamas issued a threat on live television, stating that they would carry out televised executions of Israeli citizens held captive if Israel conducted airstrikes in Gaza. Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for the militant group’s military wing in control of Gaza, made this declaration in a statement to Al-Jazeera, emphasizing that any attacks on their people would be met with this gruesome response against Israeli civilian prisoners.
Israel has already flagged the modus operandi of Hamas as the one opted by the Islamic State terrorist group in the early 2010s, citing the brutalities meted out to the captive Israelis since last weekend.
“Because the enemy does not comprehend the language of humanity and morals, we shall address him in the language he understands,” Hamas spokesperson told the Qatar-based publication late Monday evening (Oct 9).
The Human Rights Watch described Hamas’ threat to kill captives as ‘grotesque’, and said such potential acts would amount to ‘flagrant war crimes by Hamas’.
Dozens of Israeli hostages, including women and children, have been taken into Gaza by Hamas, hugely complicating any Israeli military operation to free them.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it had called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip to stop the supply of food, water and fuel.
Inside Israel, Palestinians owing allegiance to Hamas were holed up in several locations, the country’s major dailies reported.
Israeli TV channels said the death toll from the Hamas attack had climbed to 900.
In Gaza, Israel has upped the ante with its most intensive retaliatory strikes ever, which have killed more than 500 people since Saturday.
Several Hamas security headquarters and ministries were hit. The strikes also destroyed some roads and houses.
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”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said some 137,000 people were taking shelter with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the UN agency that provides essential services to Palestinians.