By Henriette Saker, Teddy Heun, and Nidal Al-Mughrabi
JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday there would be no humanitarian exemptions to its blockade of the Gaza Strip until all hostages are freed, after the Red Cross appealed for fuel to be allowed to prevent overflowing hospitals from becoming “overwhelming morgues”.
US Secretary of State He arrived in Tel Aviv on a mission to show solidarity with Israel, prevent escalation of the conflict and free hostages. Next to him is the Prime Minister “Thank you, America, for standing with Israel today, tomorrow and always,” he said.
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for the worst attack on civilians in its history when hundreds of gunmen crossed the blockade and attacked Israeli cities.
Public broadcaster Khan said the Israeli death toll had risen to more than 1,300. Most civilians were shot dead in their homes, on the streets or at dance parties. Many Israeli and foreign hostages were taken back to Gaza; Israel said it had identified 97 of them.
The full scale of the killings has come to light after Israeli forces regained control of the cities in recent days, finding houses strewn with bodies. They say they found women who had been raped and killed and children who had been shot and burned.
Israel has so far responded by placing Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, under a total siege and launching the most powerful bombing campaign in the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, destroying entire neighborhoods.
Gaza officials say the bombing killed 1,354 Palestinians and injured more than 6,000.
Emergency generators powering hospitals in Gaza could run out within hours, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
“Without electricity, hospitals risk becoming morgues,” said ICRC Regional Director Fabrizio Carboni. “The human suffering caused by this escalation is despicable, and I urge all parties to minimize public suffering.”
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said there would be no exceptions to the blockade without freedom for Israeli hostages.
“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? The power switch won’t be flipped, the water hydrant won’t open, the fuel truck won’t enter until the Israeli hostages come home. Humanitarian for humanitarian sake. And no one to teach us morality,” Katz posted on social media. Stage X.
Burial of the dead
Standing next to Blinken after their meeting in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu praised U.S. President Joe Biden for calling the Hamas attacks “pure evil” on Wednesday. Biden also called the attacks “the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”
Blinken applauded Netanyahu’s decision to bring some of his political opponents into the wartime unity cabinet, and said the United States knows that Hamas does not represent the true aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Blinken will travel to Jordan on Friday to meet with King Abdullah , head of the Palestinian Authority, which operates limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Abbas, an adversary of Hamas, did not directly condemn Saturday’s attacks on Israel and blamed the escalation on ignoring Palestinian grievances.
Scores of Israelis gathered at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery on Thursday to bury their dead.
“When you didn’t take my call, I knew you were fighting with all your might. When I realized you were missing, I couldn’t imagine how this would end,” said a mourner, as the family embraced.
At a hospital in Khan Younis, a major city in the south of the Gaza Strip, a woman tries to calm a crying girl whose home was attacked. The girl kept screaming, “My mother, I want my mother.”
She said that she is looking for her mother.. we don’t know where she is, holding the little girl.
In Gaza’s Al Shadi refugee camp, residents sifted through the rubble with their bare hands in search of survivors and bodies. Rescuers say they lack fuel and equipment to dig victims out of collapsed buildings.
At least 340,000 Gazans have been made homeless in the past four days, according to the United Nations. About 220,000 of them stay in 92 UN-run schools.
Sheltered in a school, Hanan al-Attar, 14, said his family fled their home with nothing but the clothes on their backs as bombs fell nearby. Her uncle went back to get clothes and died when the house hit him.
“They bombed houses on civilians, women and children,” his grandfather said.
Egypt, which shares a single border with Gaza, said it would try to allow aid there.
Israeli reservists—a sizable portion of the aging population fighting in a country with compulsory military service—were returning home from abroad to join the war.
“Everybody’s coming. Nobody’s saying no,” said Yonatan Steiner, 24, from New York, who works at a technology company and flew back to join his old Army medical unit.
“It’s different, it’s unprecedented, the rules have changed,” he said by phone from near the border with Lebanon, where his brigade is based.
Israel’s next move could be a ground attack on Gaza. No decision has yet been made to invade “but we are preparing for it,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said early Thursday.
The war has torn diplomacy in the region as Israel prepares to reach a deal to normalize ties with wealthy Arab superpower Saudi Arabia.
Tehran celebrated the Hamas attacks but denied being behind them. Biden said the deployment of military ships and aircraft close to Israel should be seen as a signal to Iran to stay out of the conflict.
(Reporting by Henrik Sacker, Teddy Heun, Mayan Lubel and Emily Rose in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Emma Farge in Geneva, Jeff Mason in Washington and Peter Graf; Editing by Alex Richardson, Nick Macrandrau)