Israel's defence minister orders 'complete siege' of Gaza as Hamas threatens to kill hostages

Israel increased airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Monday and sealed it off from food, fuel and other supplies in retaliation for a bloody incursion by Hamas militants, as Hamas pledged it would kill captured Israelis if attacks targeted civilians without warning.

Israel retakes villages bordering Gaza as Hamas fires more rockets

Gaza faces humanitarian crisis with Israeli retaliation

7 months ago
Duration 1:59
After an attack by Hamas, Israel has declared a siege on the Gaza Strip, cutting off food, water and fuel — a move many say will cause a humanitarian crisis in a region that’s already struggling.

The latest:

  • Israel cuts electricity and stops entry of food, water and fuel into Gaza for 'complete siege' of the territory.
  • Israeli media reports at least 900 people in Israel killed since Saturday's attacks; Palestinian officials say more than 680 people killed in Gaza.
  • Montreal man, 33, among those killed in Hamas attack at a music festival.
  • Palestinian militant groups claim to be holding more than 130 hostages from the Israeli side.
  • European Union reverses planned suspension of all payments to the Palestinians.

Israel increased airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Monday and sealed it off from food, fuel and other supplies in retaliation for a bloody incursion by Hamas militants, as the war's total death toll rose to nearly 1,600. Hamas also escalated its action on Monday, pledging to kill captured Israelis if attacks targeted civilians without warnings.

In the war's third day, Israel was still finding bodies from Hamas's weekend attack into southern Israeli towns. Rescue workers found 100 bodies in the tiny farming community of Beeri — around 10 per cent of its population — after a long hostage standoff with gunmen. In Gaza, tens of thousands fled their homes as relentless airstrikes levelled buildings.

Rockets and entrials seen in a night sky
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel on Monday. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

The Israeli military said it had largely gained control in its southern towns after the attack caught its vaunted military and intelligence apparatus completely off guard and led to fierce battles in its streets for the first time in decades. But Hamas and other militants in Gaza say they are holding more than 130 soldiers and civilians snatched from inside Israel.

Israeli tanks and drones were deployed to guard breaches in the Gaza border fence to prevent new incursions.

WATCH | How the surprise attack by Hamas unfolded: 

How Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel unfolded

7 months ago
Duration 7:42
Israel has declared war with Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack that killed hundreds. The National breaks down how Hamas went seemingly undetected by Israeli intelligence for months and days leading up to the attack and what could happen next.

Thousands of Israelis were evacuated from more than a dozen towns near Gaza, and the military summoned 300,000 reservists — a massive mobilization in a short time. The moves, along with Israel's formal declaration of war on Sunday, pointed to Israel increasingly shifting to the offensive against Hamas, threatening greater destruction in the densely populated, impoverished Gaza Strip.

"We have only started striking Hamas," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address Monday evening. "What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations."

People arm in arm, one in the middle in tears
At a funeral in Tel Aviv on Monday, Israelis mourn a soldier who was killed in an attack by Hamas militants. (Hadas Parush/Reuters)

Civilians on both sides have already suffered a terrible toll: about 900 people, including 73 soldiers, have been killed in Israel, according to media. In Gaza, more than 680 people have been killed, according to authorities there; Israel says hundreds of Hamas fighters are among them.

Some 2,000 people have been wounded on each side.

In response to Israel's bombardment, the spokesman of Hamas's armed wing, Abu Obeida, said in an audio released Monday night that the group will kill one Israeli civilian hostage any time Israel targets civilians in their homes in Gaza "without prior warning."

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen warned Hamas against harming hostages, saying, "This war crime will not be forgiven."

More than 187,500 people have been internally displaced in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict, according to a report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, is hosting more than 137,000 people in schools across the territory.

The report says airstrikes have razed 790 housing units and severely damaged 5,330 in the territory, and damage to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in Gaza has disrupted service for more than 400,000 people.

People stand in a narrow urban street that is filled with rubble and burned out cars.
Palestinians inspect damage in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, following a Hamas surprise attack, at Beach refugee camp in Gaza City on Monday. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

A major question remains whether Israel will launch a ground assault into the tiny, Mediterranean coastal territory, a move that in the past has brought even greater casualties.

The hostages are known to include soldiers and civilians, including women, children and older adults, mostly Israelis but also some people of other nationalities.

Mayyan Zin, a mother of two, said she learned that her two daughters had been abducted when a relative sent her photos from a Telegram group showing them sitting on mattresses in captivity. She then found online videos of a chilling scene in her ex-husband's home in the town of Nahal Oz: Gunmen who had broken in speak to him, his leg bleeding, in the living room near their two terrified, weeping daughters, Dafna, 15, and Ella, 8.

Another video showed the father being taken across the border into Gaza. "Just bring my daughters home and to their family. All the people," Zin said.

WATCH | Families of Israeli hostages plead for their release: 

Families of Israeli hostages plead for their return

7 months ago
Duration 2:42
Dozens of Israelis are being held hostage, many taken from a desert concert near Gaza, and their families are fearing the worst while pleading for their return.

While the Israeli military said fighting in border towns has largely died down for now, it continued to fight Hamas in "seven to eight" places in southern Israel.

Rockets aimed at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv

Palestinian militants continued firing barrages of rockets, setting off air raid sirens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. 

There are also reports that Hamas on Monday fired dozens of rockets toward the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon in response to Israeli airstrikes.

Israeli military spokesperson Richard Hecht said there were still multiple breaches in the border, which he said Hamas could be using to bring in more fighters and weapons.

A woman in a red t-shirt stands outside a heavily damaged building speaking on a mobile phone.
A woman in the southern Israel city of Ashkelon stands next to a building, which was hit overnight by a rocket from Gaza. Israeli forces were still fighting Hamas in 'seven to eight' places in southern Israel on Monday, the military said. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, the Israeli Defence Forces said 70 additional militants infiltrated Be'eri kibbutz overnight.

'Death sentence'

Meanwhile, Israel hit more than 1,000 targets in Gaza, its military said, including airstrikes that levelled much of the town of Beit Hanoun in the enclave's northeast corner.

Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters Hamas was using the town as a staging ground for attacks. There was no immediate word on casualties, and most of the community's population of tens of thousands likely fled beforehand.

Home to some two million people, the Gaza Strip has been run by Hamas since it seized control of the territory in 2007. However, an independent UN Human Rights commission last year found Israel has continued to occupy Gaza despite disengaging in 2005 by effectively controlling movement in and out of its borders and the supply of essentials like water and electricity.

Hammam Alloh, a doctor working in Gaza City, says if Israel does in fact retaliate by cutting off all essential supplies to people living in the Gaza Strip, it will amount to a "death sentence."

He told As It Happens host Nil Köksal that there is already a shortage of medical supplies and people to treat the sick and wounded. 

"This means I will not be able to live a few days if there is not going to be any water to drink," he said. "This means that we can't treat the people in hospitals. This means a death sentence to all people living in the Gaza Strip."

LISTEN | The full interview with Hamman Alloh:

EU reverses earlier suspension of aid

New exchanges on Israel's northern border Monday raised worries that the war could spread to a new front.

Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group slipped from Lebanon into Israel, sparking Israeli shelling into southern Lebanon. Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group said three of its members were killed, after earlier reporting five members were killed, and it retaliated with a volley of rockets and mortars at two Israeli army bases across the border.

Early Tuesday morning in Israel, the country's military said that a deputy Israeli commander was killed in clashes on the northern border with Lebanon. The military identified the deputy commander as Alim Abdallah, but did not specify the exact circumstances of his death.

Soldiers stand on and around a tank in a field.
Israeli soldiers gather on and around a tank at the Israeli side of the Gaza border on Monday. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

The European Union late Monday reversed an earlier announcement by an EU commissioner that the bloc was immediately suspending aid for Palestinian authorities and instead said it would urgently review such assistance in the wake of the attacks on Israel by Hamas.

"There will be no suspension of payments" at the moment, a terse European Commission statement said late Monday, five hours after EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi had said that all payments from the development program for Palestinians would be immediately suspended.

No immediate explanation for the reversal was given.

The reversal on a 691 million-euro ($998 million Cdn) program capped an embarrassing day at the EU's executive at a time of extreme geopolitical sensitivities.

How the latest violence began Saturday

After breaking through Israeli barriers with explosives at daybreak Saturday, Hamas gunmen shot civilians and snatched people in towns, along highways and at a techno music festival attended by thousands in the desert. The rescue service Zaka said it removed about 260 bodies from the festival, and that number was expected to rise. It was not clear how many of those bodies were already included in Israel's overall toll.

The Israeli military estimated 1,000 Hamas fighters took part in Saturday's initial incursion. The high figure underscored the extent of planning by the militant group ruling Gaza, which has said it launched the attack in response to mounting Palestinian suffering under Israel's occupation and blockade of Gaza.

WATCH | Assessing the losses: 

Israelis assess losses and strike back after Hamas attack

7 months ago
Duration 2:51
This video contains disturbing images | A day after Hamas's deadly attack, Israelis assessed the damage and their losses while the government declared war and launched its counter-offensive.

Montreal man killed, reports of 2 other Canadians missing

On Monday, the parents of a 33-year-old Montreal man confirmed that their son was among those killed at the music festival in Israel's Negev desert early Saturday, 20 kilometres from the Gaza Strip.

His mother told CBC News that she was on the phone with him when he was caught up in the attack. "I heard him tell his friends, 'They're coming back, there's a lot of them.' And then all I heard was a lot of gunshots," Raquel Ohnona Look said. "And then we heard nothing."

WATCH | A mother's last conversation with her son: 

Mom of Canadian killed in Hamas attack recounts harrowing final phone call

7 months ago
Duration 2:28
Warning: This video contains distressing details. Montreal's Alexandre Look was among the hundreds killed when Hamas gunmen attacked an outdoor music festival near the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday. His mother, Raquel Ohnona Look, describes the final video call he made to her while he was sheltering in a bunker.

Global Affairs Canada has not confirmed Alexandre Look's death, but said Sunday it is working to confirm reports of a Canadian who died and two others who are missing in the region following the multi-pronged attacks. 

"Canadian government officials in Israel are in contact with local authorities to confirm and gather additional information," Global Affairs said in a statement.

Global Affairs said it has received more than 400 inquiries about the fighting. It said 1,419 Canadians are registered with the voluntary Registration of Canadians Abroad in the State of Israel, and 492 Canadians are registered in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday convened the Incident Response Group with ministers and senior officials to discuss Hamas's attacks, according to his office.

WATCH | Canada focusing on de-escalation, says foreign affairs minister: 

Canada focused on efforts to de-escalate Israel-Hamas conflict, minister says

7 months ago
Duration 11:35
'We support Israel's right to defend itself according to international law. Hostages must be released and, of course, civilians must be protected,' said Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly. 'My priority is to protect Canadians and also to work diplomatically to try to find a solution to de-escalate.'

With files from Reuters and CBC News