NEW YORK: Amid Israel’s complete blockade of the besieged territory, a group of independent United Nations (UN) experts on Thursday deplored that relentless strikes against Gaza amounted to “collective punishment,” as the death toll in the region surged past 1,300 with the war entering its sixth day on Thursday.
Israel said on Thursday there would be no humanitarian break to its siege of the Gaza Strip until all its hostages were freed after the Red Cross pleaded for fuel to be allowed in to prevent overwhelmed hospitals from “turning into morgues”.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip in retribution for the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust, when hundreds of gunmen poured across the barrier fence and rampaged through Israeli towns on Saturday.
Public broadcaster Kan said the Israeli death toll had risen to more than 1,300 people killed since Saturday. Most were civilians gunned down in their homes, on the streets or at a dance party. Scores of Israeli and foreign hostages were taken back to Gaza.
Israel has responded so far by putting the enclave, home to 2.3 million people, under total siege and launching by far the most powerful bombing campaign, destroying whole neighbourhoods.
Gaza authorities report 1,354 people have been martyred and 6,049 people have been wounded in the bombing. The sole electric power station has been switched off and hospitals are running out of fuel for emergency generators.
Israel links food to hostages
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz vowed his country would not allow basic resources or humanitarian aid into Gaza until Hamas released the hostages it took during its surprise weekend attack on Israel after the United Nations (UN) called for allowing humanitarian aid into the besieged territory.
“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home,” he said in a statement.
‘UN experts condemn horrific crimes’
While condemning the “horrific crimes committed by Hamas”, the group of independent UN experts said that Israel had resorted to “indiscriminate military attacks against the already exhausted Palestinian people of Gaza,” Reuters reported.
“They have lived under unlawful blockade for 16 years, and already gone through five major brutal wars, which remain unaccounted for,” the group, which includes several UN special rapporteurs, said in a statement.
“This amounts to collective punishment. There is no justification for violence that indiscriminately targets innocent civilians, whether by Hamas or Israeli forces.
This is absolutely prohibited under international law and amounts to a war crime.”
UN chief seeks ‘unimpeded’ humanitarian access to Gaza
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for allowing humanitarian aid into war-struck Gaza, with the death toll in the region surging past 1,3000 as the war enters its sixth day on Thursday.
Days after Israel announced a total blockade of Gaza, The UN chief took to X, formerly known as Twitter, saying the supply of humanitarian aid, including food and water, “must be allowed” into Gaza.
“Crucial life-saving supplies — including fuel, food and water — must be allowed into Gaza. We need rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access now,” the UN chief wrote on X.
While addressing the Jewish community in the US Wednesday, President Joe Biden vividly described the horrors of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Soon after he made the claims that he believed based on confirmed pictures, the White House was forced to retract his statements.
In broad statements regarding his administration’s support for Israel amid its conflict with Hamas and efforts to release US hostages, Biden said, “I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.”
According to officials from the White House, Biden was alluding to allegations from Israel of children being killed, referencing several media reports of beheadings.
Israel forms unity government
“Our partnership is not political, it is a shared fate,” said Gantz. “At this time we are all the soldiers of Israel.”
Netanyahu said the people of Israel and its leadership were united. “We have put aside all differences because the fate of our state is on the line,” he said.
Gantz’s National Unity Party, which has fiercely opposed judicial reforms proposed by Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, said it will not promote any unrelated policy or laws while the fighting goes on. Israel has put Gaza under “total siege” to stop food and fuel from reaching the enclave of 2.3 million people, many poor and dependent on aid. Hamas media said on Wednesday that electricity went out after the only power station stopped working.