Israel imposed a “total blockade” on the Gaza Strip on Monday with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant stating that all supplies of electricity, water, food, fuel and other goods would be stopped as Israeli troops battled to clear out Hamas fighters from southern settlements.
The Israeli army further said it would soon go on the offensive after the biggest mobilisation in Israeli history.
Fighting raged at several locations inside Israel where the fighters were still holed up following a raid that shattered Israel’s reputation of invincibility.
The Israeli military said it struck hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip overnight and had sent four combat divisions south where it continued to battle Palestinian fighters two days after a bloody incursion.
Footage of heavy IAF airstrikes on targets in northern Gaza.
IDF announced another period of widespread airstrikes about an hour ago. pic.twitter.com/XKZ2fwRwAr
— Global: Military-Info (@Global_Mil_Info) October 9, 2023
The Palestinian health ministry said at least 493 people including scores of children have been killed by Israeli bombing and more than 2751 have been injured till now.
A military spokesperson said fighting was ongoing at seven or eight locations near Gaza two days after fighters from Hamas killed 700 Israelis and abducted dozens more in the deadliest raid into Israeli territory since Egypt and Syria’s attacks in the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago.
Hamas fighters also continued to cross into Israel from Gaza, the spokesman said.
Fighter jets, helicopters and artillery struck over 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, with targets including Hamas and Islamic Jihad command centres and the residence of senior Hamas official Ruhi Mashtaa who allegedly helped direct the infiltration into Israel.
Medics in Gaza said at least seven Palestinians were killed in two Israeli air strikes on two houses. Israeli planes carried out dozens of air strikes, many in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.
Israeli air strikes on Sunday hit housing blocks, tunnels, a mosque and homes of Hamas officials in Gaza.
“The price the Gaza Strip will pay will be a very heavy one that will change reality for generations,” said Defence Minister Yoav Gallant in the town of Ofakim, which suffered casualties and had hostages taken.
Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the country had called in around 100,000 soldiers.
Israeli security gather near a rifle at the site of a battle with Hamas fighters, in Sderot, southern Israel. PHOTO: Reuters
“Our job is to make sure that at the end of this war, Hamas will no longer have any military capabilities to threaten Israeli civilians with, and in addition to that we also need to make sure Hamas will not govern the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Oil prices were up more than $3 a barrel in Asian trade on Monday as the violence deepened political uncertainty across the Middle East and raised concerns about supplies from Iran.
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 in the attacks.
Any sustained rally in oil prices would act as a tax on consumers and add to global inflationary pressures, which weighed on equities as S&P 500 futures shed 0.7% and Nasdaq futures lost 0.6%.
Several international air carriers have suspended flight services with Tel Aviv in light of the Hamas attack, saying they are waiting for conditions to improve before resuming.
Beyond blockaded Gaza, Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah exchanged artillery and rocket fire on Sunday, while in Egypt, two Israeli tourists were shot dead along with a guide.
Appeals for restraint came from around the world, though Western nations largely stood by Israel.
The Palestinian foreign ministry denounced what it called a “barbarous campaign of death and destruction” by Israel.
“As an occupying power, Israel has no right or justification to target the defenceless civilian population in Gaza or elsewhere in Palestine,” it said on Sunday.
In southern Israel, Hamas fighters were still fighting Israeli security forces after their surprise assault with rocket barrages and bands of gunmen who overran army bases and invaded border towns.
“It’s taking more time than we expected to get things back into a defensive, security posture,” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told a briefing with journalists.
Israel drafts 300,000
Israel has drafted a record 300,000 reservists in its response to a multi-front Hamas attack from Gaza and is “going on the offensive,” the chief military spokesperson said on Monday.
Since Saturday’s surprise assault, Israeli aircraft have been pounding Gaza targets while its ground forces have battled to retake control of border villages and towns overrun by Palestinian gunmen.
Chief military spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said control of those communities had been re-established 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,” he said in a televised briefing.
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from the city of Ashkelon. PHOTO: Reuters
Israeli military officials had previously said that their focus was on securing Israel’s side of the border before carrying out any major escalation of the counter-offensive in Gaza.
Hagari said 300,000 reservists have been called up by the military since Saturday, a number suggesting preparations for a possible invasion – though any such plans have not been officially confirmed.
“We have never drafted so many reservists on such a scale,” he said. “We are going on the offensive.”
Israel’s military, which faces awkward questions for not thwarting the attack, claimed it had regained control of most infiltration points along security barriers, killed hundreds of attackers and taken dozens more prisoner.
Tens of thousands of soldiers had been around Gaza, a narrow strip of land that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians, and the military was starting to evacuate Israelis around the frontier.
Israel has not released an official toll but its media said at least 700 people were killed in Saturday’s attacks, children among them. Military spokesperson Daniel Hagari called it “the worst massacre of innocent civilians in Israel’s history.”
Several Americans were killed by Hamas attackers, a White House National Security Council spokesperson confirmed. Thailand said 12 of its nationals had been killed and 11 kidnapped.
Palestinian fighters took dozens of hostages to Gaza, including soldiers and civilians, children and the elderly. A second Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, said it was holding more than 30 of the captives.
About 30 missing Israelis attending a dance party that was attacked by gunmen emerged from hiding on Sunday, Israeli media reported, putting the death toll at the outdoor gathering at 260.
“The cruel reality is Hamas took hostages as an insurance policy against Israeli retaliatory action, particularly a massive ground attack and to trade for Palestinian prisoners,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
US.President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second straight day on Sunday, saying in a post on the social media platform X that he expressed “my full support for the people of Israel in the face of an unprecedented and appalling assault by Hamas terrorists.”
The United States led Western denunciations of Hamas’ attack, with Biden issuing a warning to Iran and others that this was “not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the eastern Mediterranean as a show of support to Israel.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem condemned the US announcement as “an actual participation in the aggression against our people”.
The violence may undermine U.S.-backed moves towards normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia – a security realignment that could threaten Palestinian hopes of self-determination and hem in Hamas’ main backer, Iran.
Tehran’s other main regional ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, fought a war with Israel in 2006 and said its “guns and rockets” stand with Hamas.
The escalation follows surging violence between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule.
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 in 2007.
“How many times have we warned you that the Palestinian people have been living in refugee camps for 75 years, and you refuse to recognise the rights of our people?” Haniyeh said.
The UN 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.
US vetoes UN ceasefire bid as Israel continues Gaza assault
Israel pressed its invasion of the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza on Saturday after the United States blocked an extraordinary UN bid to call for a ceasefire in the two-month conflict.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority swiftly condemned the US veto as the Palestinian health ministry put the latest death toll in Gaza at 17,487 people, mostly women and children.
An Israeli strike on the southern city of Khan Yunis killed six people, while five others died in a separate attack in Rafah, the ministry said Saturday.
⚡️MINDBLOWING: Hamas published a new video showing scenes of Hamas clashing with military vehicles, including Merkava tanks, penetrating the Gaza City axes. pic.twitter.com/7kzzO4CPwq
— Arya – آریا 🇮🇷 (@AryJeay) December 8, 2023
Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to rubble and the UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, with dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine reported.
“It’s so cold, and the tent is so small. All I have are the clothes I wear, I still don’t know what the next step will be,” said Mahmud Abu Rayan, displaced from Beit Lahia in the north.
A UN Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate ceasefire was vetoed by the United States on Friday.
US envoy Robert Wood said the resolution was “divorced from reality” and “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground”.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the ceasefire “would prevent the collapse of the Hamas terrorist organisation, which is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and would enable it to continue ruling the Gaza Strip”.
Hamas slammed on Saturday the US rejection of the ceasefire bid as “a direct participation of the occupation in killing our people and committing more massacres and ethnic cleansing”.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said it was “a disgrace and another blank cheque given to the occupying state to massacre, destroy and displace”.
Wounded Palestinian children sit on the floor at Nasser hospital following Israeli strikes. PHOTO: Reuters
The veto was swiftly condemned by humanitarian groups, with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) saying the Security Council was “complicit in the ongoing slaughter”.
Israel’s military said Friday it had struck 450 targets in Gaza over 24 hours, showing footage of strikes from naval vessels in the Mediterranean.
The Palestinian health ministry reported 40 Palestinians killed near Gaza City in the north, and dozens more in Jabalia and the main southern city of Khan Yunis.
Following two months of conflict and barbaric Israeli bombardment, UN chief Antonio Guterres said Friday “the people of Gaza are looking into the abyss”.
“People are desperate, fearful and angry,” he said. “All this takes place amid a spiralling humanitarian nightmare.”
Many of the 1.9 million Gazans who have been displaced by the war have headed south, turning Rafah near the Egyptian border into a vast camp.
Only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity, according to United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA.
⚡️WATCH: Al-Quds Brigades published a new video showing scenes of targeting israeli military vehicles including Merkava tanks on the incursion axes towards Gaza City. pic.twitter.com/vpPQs24vT2
— Arya – آریا 🇮🇷 (@AryJeay) December 8, 2023
With the civilian toll mounting, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that Washington believes Israel needs to do more to protect civilians in the conflict.
“We certainly all recognise more can be done to… reduce civilian casualties. And we’re going to keep working with our Israeli counterparts to that end,” he said.
The death toll also rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory’s health ministry said.
Israel claimed Friday it has lost 91 soldiers in Gaza. The real number of casualties is likely higher.
It claimed two others were wounded in a failed bid to rescue hostages overnight, and that “numerous terrorists” were killed in the operation.
Hamas said a hostage was killed in the botched Israeli rescue operation, and released a video purporting to show the body, which could not be independently verified.
An attack on the US embassy in Iraq on Friday deepened fears of wider regional conflict.
Salvoes of rockets were launched against the mission in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, adding to dozens of recent rocket and drone strikes by resistance groups against American or coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.
Separately, three Hezbollah fighters and a Syrian were killed on Friday in an Israeli drone strike on their car in the south of Syria, a war monitor said.
WHO members urge Israel to protect humanitarian workers
More than a dozen member states of the World Health Organization submitted a draft resolution on Friday that urged Israel to respect its obligations under international law to protect humanitarian workers in Gaza.
A wounded Palestinian child sits on the floor of Nasser hospital following Israeli strikes. PHOTO: Reuters
The text of the draft resolution is due to be examined on Sunday during a special session of the WHO’s Executive Board convened to discuss “the health situation in the occupied Palestinian territory”.
It was proposed by Algeria, Bolivia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Palestinian representatives have WHO observer status, and were also signatories to the proposal.
The member states expressed their “grave concern about the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, especially the military operations in the Gaza Strip”.
They called for Israel to “respect and protect” medical and humanitarian workers exclusively involved in carrying out medical duties, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.
Separately, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters on Friday that Gaza’s health system was on its knees and could not afford to lose another ambulance or a single hospital bed.
“The situation is getting more and more horrible by the day… beyond belief, literally,” he said.
The United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA said late on Thursday that only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity.
Hundreds still stranded, plants closed in India’s Chennai
Volunteers waded through stagnant water to hand out food and supplies, and some manufacturing plants remained shut in India’s southern tech-and-auto hub district of Chennai on Friday, four days after cyclone Michaung lashed the coast.
At least 14 people, most of them in Chennai and its state of Tamil Nadu, have died in the flooding, triggered by torrential rains that started on Monday.
The cyclone itself made landfall further north in Andhra Pradesh state on Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities said some low-lying areas of the state were still inundated and government officials and volunteers were taking supplies to people stuck in their homes in slums and other areas.
The larger Chennai area is home to the Indian units of several global firms including Hyundai Motor (005380.KS), Daimler and Taiwan’s Foxconn (2317.TW) and Pegatron (4938.TW) which do contract manufacturing for Apple (AAPL.O).
While many of them including Pegatron and Foxconn resumed operations within a day or two of the cyclone making landfall, some plants of the TVS group located in the worst-affected areas are yet to open, industry sources said.
Adani Krishnapatnam Port (APSE.NS) in Andhra Pradesh, said on Friday the cyclone had “very badly affected” its operations and it was declaring a force majeure period starting Dec. 3.
Force majeure is a notice used to describe events outside a company’s control, such as a natural disaster, which usually releases it from contractual obligation without penalty.
State-run Madras Fertilizers (MDFT.NS) notified stock exchanges that its Chennai plant has been shut and is tentatively expected to resume operations within two to four weeks.
Information technology (IT) services providers told staff to work from home for the week, while schools and colleges closed. A few schools and colleges were converted into temporary shelters.
This week’s floods in Chennai brought back memories of the extensive damage caused by floods eight years ago which killed around 290 people.
In Andhra Pradesh, the damage from the cyclone was relatively contained, with roads damaged and trees uprooted as big waves crashed into the coast.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Chennai on Thursday and announced New Delhi will release a second instalment of 4.5 billion rupees ($54 million) to Tamil Nadu to help manage the damage. The federal government has also approved a 5.6 billion-rupee project for flood management in Chennai, he said.
Chennai residents questioned the ability of the city’s infrastructure to handle extreme weather.
“Not only has urbanisation itself caused a problem, but the nature of the urbanisation has preyed upon open spaces, holding areas like marshlands and flood plains,” social activist Nityanand Jayaraman said.
Experts have, however, said better stormwater drainage systems would not have been able to prevent the flooding caused by very heavy and extremely heavy rains.
“This solution would have helped a lot in moderate and heavy rainfall, but not in very heavy and extremely heavy rains,” Raj Bhagat P, a civil engineer and geo-analytics expert, said on Wednesday.
Gunman described as struggling academic with ‘target list’
The gunman who killed three professors and wounded one at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was a financially struggling academic whose job applications were rejected by several higher-education institutions in Nevada, police said on Thursday.
Anthony James Polito, 67, also had mailed nearly two dozen suspicious letters to faculty at universities across the country and had prepared a “target list” of people at both UNLV and a North Carolina university where he once worked, police said.
Polito, facing eviction from his home in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, had a criminal record of computer trespass dating to 1992 in Virginia, but police said there were no advance signs of violence.
The Taurus 9mm handgun he used in the shooting was legally purchased in 2022, according to Sheriff Kevin McMahill of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. He said Polito, who police shot dead after the attacks, was believed to have acted alone.
The precise motive for the rampage remained to be determined, though officials said it appeared students were not the primary target.
All four people shot on Wednesday inside Beam Hall, the campus building that houses UNLV’s business school, were faculty members.
Two of the dead were identified as professor Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, 64, and assistant professor Patricia Navarro Velez, 39. The identity of the third slain professor was being withheld pending notification of family.
The surviving victim remained hospitalized, and his condition worsened on Thursday, McMahill said.
Letters and list
Detectives learned Polito had visited a post office shortly before the shooting and mailed 22 letters with no return address to university personnel across the United States, and had a list of people he was seeking on the UNLV campus as well as faculty from his former employer, East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
His LinkedIn profile described Polito as a semi-retired associate professor of business who taught at East Carolina from 2001-2017.
Authorities intercepted the letters before any were delivered and found a suspicious white powdery substance in at least one of them, McMahill said at a news briefing on Thursday.
The letters’ contents remained under investigation, the sheriff told reporters, warning that anyone in higher education who received such an envelope should exercise caution and contact authorities.
He said officials were working to notify the intended recipients and had contacted nearly everyone on the separate target list to make sure all were safe.
“None of the individuals listed on the target list became a victim,” he told reporters.
He said detectives also had uncovered evidence that Polito was struggling financially, including an eviction notice taped to the entrance of his apartment. He said a document that appeared to be a will was found inside.
“We know he had applied numerous times for jobs with several Nevada higher-education institutions,” McMahill added, but he did not say whether UNLV was one of them.
Police searching Polito’s home also recovered ammunition similar to the 150 rounds he was carrying.
The UNLV campus will remain closed through Friday. The UNLV website said classes had been canceled through Dec. 10.
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