Israel orders 'complete siege' of Gaza, with food, water and energy cut off

As Israel vows crushing retaliation for Hamas' invasion, Hamas threatens to kill its hostages

Israel airstrikes hit Gaza City
Israel airstrikes hit Gaza City
(Image credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images)

As Israel and Palestinian militants continued battling into a fourth day after Hamas launched a brutal surprise attack Saturday morning, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday he had ordered a "complete siege" of the Gaza Strip, with "no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel" allowed into the Palestinian territory. As of early Tuesday, Israel's death toll stood at more than 900 while Gaza authorities said nearly 700 Palestinians have been killed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday, said in a televised speech Monday that Israel has "only started striking Hamas," adding, "What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations." A spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, which also rules Gaza, said the Palestinian militants would execute some of their estimated 150 Israeli hostages every time Israel struck Gazans "in their homes without warning."

President Biden and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement last Monday condemning "Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism."

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Israel has been blockading Gaza's two shared land borders and its Mediterranean coast for 16 years. A siege would spell "utter disaster" for Palestinian civilians, Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told The Associated Press. "There is no doubt that collective punishment is in violation of international law." Egypt, which shares Gaza's fourth border, will allow medical and food aid to pass through the small Rafah border crossing, AP reported, citing an Egyptian military official.

Israel has called up 300,000 reservists, and its forces amassed near the Gaza Strip border suggest a ground invasion could be in the works. Its fighter jets have already destroyed housing blocks and water and communications infrastructure, struck a market where Gazans were stocking up on food, and razed four mosques in the Shati refugee camp, The New York Times reported. Israel said the mosques were hiding Hamas fighters or infrastructure.

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