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Israel says no to humanitarian break to Gaza siege unless hostages are freed

October 12, 2023 at 11:04 am

Smoke rises as Israeli artillery units and howitzers stationed in the military zone launch attacks during the fifth day of attacks in Sderot, Israel on October 11, 2023 [Saeed Qaq/Anadolu Agency]

Israel said on Thursday that there would be no humanitarian break to its siege of the Gaza Strip until all hostages held by Hamas are freed, Reuters has reported. The occupation state made this clear after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) pleaded for fuel to be allowed in to prevent overwhelmed hospitals from “turning into morgues”.

The government of Israel has vowed to annihilate the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement movement that rules the Gaza Strip — it won the Palestinian elections in 2006 to lead the Palestinian Authority, a result rejected by Israel and its allies, as well as Mahmoud Abbas — in retribution for what is being described emotively as the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. Hundreds of gunmen poured across the barrier fence from Gaza last Saturday and attacked Israeli army barracks and settlements.

According to Israeli public broadcaster Kan, the Israeli death toll had risen to more than 1,300 people killed since Saturday. Scores of prisoners of war and hostages were taken back to Gaza.

READ: White House retracts statements accusing the Qassam Brigades of killing children

Israel has responded by putting the enclave, home to 2.3 million people, under total siege and launching the most powerful bombing campaign in the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, destroying whole residential and other neighbourhoods. Critics have pointed out that this amounts to collective punishment and is thus a war crime, but Israel has been emboldened by its claim of “self-defence” being endorsed in Western capitals.

The health ministry in Gaza says that more than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed, of whom 171 were women and 326 were children. Of the more than 5,000 who have been wounded in the Israeli bombardment, almost 750 are women and more than 1,200 are children. The sole electric power station has been switched off and hospitals are running out of fuel for emergency generators.

“The human misery caused by this escalation is abhorrent, and I implore the sides to reduce the suffering of civilians,” said Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the ICRC this morning. “As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting new-borns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can’t be taken. Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues.”

READ: UNRWA confirms 11 staff killed in Gaza as agency issues situation update

Israel’s Energy Minister Israel Katz insisted that there would be no exception to the siege without freedom for Israeli hostages. “Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be lifted, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home. Humanitarian for humanitarian. And nobody should preach us morals,” said Katz on social media platform X.

At the hospital in Khan Yunis, the main city in the south of the Gaza Strip, a woman tried to calm a weeping girl who kept screaming, “My mother, I want my mother.” The woman said that the mother’s whereabouts are unknown. The girl’s face was bruised and cut after her house was damaged by an Israeli air strike.

In Gaza’s Al Shati refugee camp, residents have been sifting through rubble with their bare hands looking for survivors and bodies. Rescue workers lack fuel and equipment to dig victims out of collapsed buildings.

READ: Gaza civil defence appeals for equipment to support rescue effort