‘No electric switch will be turned on’ until captives free, Israel says

Israeli energy minister says power and water will be withheld from Gaza until captives returned home.

Israeli army soldiers walk near a self-propelled howitzer
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in retaliation for the armed group's multipronged attack on Saturday [Jack Guez/AFP]

Israel’s energy minister has vowed that Tel Aviv will not allow essential resources or humanitarian aid into Gaza until Hamas releases captives.

“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,” Israel Katz said on Thursday.

Hamas is believed to have captured dozens of Israelis, foreigners and dual nationals on Saturday during the armed group’s biggest attack on Israel in decades.

On Wednesday night, al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, released a video appearing to show the release of a female captive and two children. Israel dismissed the video as “theatrics” intended to distract from the group’s “true face as a barbaric organisation”.

Israel has pledged to eradicate Hamas and announced a “full siege” on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Saturday’s attack, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,300 people and wounded some 3,000.

Israeli’s air campaign on the enclave has killed more than 1,200 people and injured more than 5,000 others, according to Palestinian authorities.

Gaza’s sole electric power station has been switched off, and over-capacity hospitals are running out of fuel.

“The human misery caused by this escalation is abhorrent, and I implore the sides to reduce the suffering of civilians,” International Committee of the Red Cross regional director Fabrizio Carboni said on Thursday.

“As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns 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.”

Palestinians look at the rubble of a house destroyed
Israeli’s air campaign on  Gaza has killed more than 1,200 people and injured more than 5,000 others [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Thousands of Israeli reservists have been called up in preparation for a possible ground assault on Gaza.

On Thursday, Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht said no invasion decision had been made, “but we’re preparing for it”.

Hecht told reporters that Palestinian gunmen were still trying to enter Israel by sea, and the military was continuing efforts to secure the Gaza gate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz on Wednesday agreed to form a unity government.

“At this time, we are all the soldiers of Israel,” Gantz said, describing their partnership as not political but a “shared fate.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel on Thursday to show solidarity with Washington’s ally, seek to prevent the war from spreading and push for the release of captives.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies