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Gaza Under ‘Complete Siege’, US Sends Israel its Biggest Warship, Joint Death Toll Surpasses 1,300

October 10, 2023
Photo credit: AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra
Photo credit: AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra

Israel launched an offensive and imposed a “complete siege” on the already-blockaded and impoverished Gaza Strip on Monday, 9 October, limiting its two million citizens’ access to food, water, and electricity. Israel claimed that it secured its border with Gaza, and placed mines where the barrier was breached.

“I have given an order — Gaza will be completely besieged. We will act appropriately because we are battling animals,” declared Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant.

At least 900 Israelis and 687 Palestinians have been killed so far, with the total number of deaths surpassing 1,300, including foreign nationals.

Thousands of Palestinians have been forced from their homes in the Gaza Strip due to continued Israeli bombings, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

More than 73,000 displaced people are now in 64 UNRWA shelters, the agency said in a statement on Monday, 9 October. According to the UNRWA, an Israeli strike on Sunday destroyed a school that served as a haven for more than 225 Palestinians.

Hamas spokesperson Abu Ubaida, born Hudayfa Samir Abdullah al-Kahlout, issued a threat on Monday that if Israel bombs a civilian house without warning, Hamas would execute an Israeli captive and broadcast the execution.

More than 48 hours after the surprise attack by Hamas, there have been a number of developments, namely Egypt’s efforts to mediate the crisis and the United States’ response to support Israel.

EU Response

The European Union (EU) reversed an earlier announcement by an EU commissioner on Monday, 9 October, that the bloc would immediately suspend development aid to the Palestinian Authority. Instead, the EU said it would urgently review such assistance to ensure that no money was misused.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized the proposal to suspend development aid to the Palestinian Authority, arguing that it would have harmed the EU’s interests in the region and emboldened terrorists.

Germany, the EU’s most populous member, and its neighbor Austria, announced that they were suspending development aid to the Palestinian territories for the time being.

Rafah Border

Egyptian security sources and a witness speaking to Reuters claimed that the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt was partially disrupted on Monday following what they describe as an airstrike on the Gazan side.

Rafah is the only crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and has been under strict control from Israel for many years, severely restricting the movement of goods and people.

The news came amid recommendations made by Israeli military officials to Palestinians to flee to Egypt.

“The Rafah crossing is still open. Anyone who can get out, I would advise them to get out,” Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Richard Hecht said in a call with foreign reporters on Monday, 9 October.

However, the Israeli military reversed this recommendation on Tuesday, 10 October, issuing a follow-up statement that the main crossing on that border was now closed.

Egypt’s Efforts

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with a number of regional leaders and foreign officials over the phone to de-escalate the conflict, according to the Egyptian presidency on Monday.

The continuous escalation between Israel and Hamas and its impact on regional stability were topics of conversation between President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a phone call.

According to the Egyptian Presidency, El-Sisi and Bin Salman have decided to coordinate their efforts to advance the Arab solution to the Palestinian problem. This solution focuses on attaining a complete and just settlement based on the two-state solution.

El-Sisi and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also discussed the latest developments in a phone call, affirming that a permanent resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be achieved through implementing the two-state solution.

US Involvement

The US is deploying warships and fighter jets near Israel this week in support of Israel, according to current and former senior US officials.

The Biden administration is sending the ships of the Navy’s USS Gerald Ford Carrier Strike Group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and officials are planning to keep in place for future events the F-16 and A-10 fighter jets that were scheduled to rotate out of the region, according to a US official.

However, the US Pentagon has not yet clarified whether it would exercise military force to directly assist Israel.

President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, 8 October, and informed him that “additional assistance for the Israeli Defence Forces” is currently en route to Israel, according to the White House. The United States already provides Israel more than USD 3 billion (EGP 92 billion) in military assistance every year.

Biden also promised Netanyahu that there would be more support in the ensuing days. They made a second call to discuss further assistance.

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