Tel Aviv, Oct 12: Israeli armed forces pounded Gaza with continuous air strikes even as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, on a mission to locate missing Americans and free US hostages, arrived here and condemned the Hamas attack after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top officials, characterising it as "litany of brutality and inhumanity" that evoked "the worst of Islamic State".
Global efforts have been mounted for the release of the hostages that includes foreign nationals including US citizens and others as UN is pressing into service humanitarian aid, UK is negotiating with middle east countries to provide free passage for its citizens from the war zone and EU and US put pressure on Saudi Arabia to negotiate with the Hamas for releasing the hostages.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been talking to middle east leaders even as he dispatched his foreign secretary Cleverly to help Israel resolve the hostage crisis.
Blinken's visit coincided with the early arrival of the first tranche of ammunition by the US to support Israel in its war against the Hamas as their brutality and atrocities began to surface in all outlets of media from Jerusalem to the world.
Blinken reiterated President Joe Biden's assurances to Netanyahu that America had the back of Israel and discussions focused on finding the missing Americans and freeing the hostages, media reports said.
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz warned Gaza is being pummeled by Israeli strikes, and will not be provided with any electricity, water or fuel until Israeli hostages being held by Hamas are returned home safely.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saudi Arabia is "exerting maximum effort" to prevent an escalation of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman told the president of Iran in a phone call Wednesday, according to Saudi media.
At least 1,417 Palestinians, including 447 children and 248 women, have died since Israel commenced air strikes on Gaza following the deadly Hamas attack last Saturday that left several soldiers and innocent civilians dead besides the kidnapping of Israelis along with foreign nationals including US citizens, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
An additional 6,268 people have been injured, the Health Ministry announced.
CNN reporters on the war zone said Gaza's humanitarian crisis deepened Thursday as Israeli jets continued to pound the densely populated enclave in response to Hamas' brutal terror attacks, in the sixth day of the conflict.
At least 1,354 people have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Saturday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Israel has reported at least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’ attacks over the weekend. Hamas is also holding as many as 150 people hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel's Energy Minister Israel Katz said Gaza will not be provided with any electricity, water or fuel until the hostages are returned home.
"No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home. Humanitarian for humanitarian. And no one will preach us morals," Katz said on Thursday.
Israel has been accused of inflicting collective punishment on Palestinians, as has subjected Gaza to intense bombardment. Collective punishment is a war crime.
Hostage situation: Hamas warned that it would start executing hostages if Israel targeted people in Gaza without warning. As many as 150 hostages, including Israeli army officers, were taken into Gaza during Saturday’s attack. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, a spokesperson for the IDF, said. The hostage issue is "extremely sensitive and complex topic,” and Israel has never dealt with a hostage operation on this scale before.
Conricus said "reason dictates" that the hostages are being kept underground, to "keep them safe from Israeli intelligence, and efforts to get them out".
The European Union on Thursday reiterated it stands in solidarity with Israel, while again calling for the right of Gaza to "access food, water and medicines, according to international humanitarian law," media reports said.
"It is very important that one cannot forget that Israel has the right to defend itself. But of course, it needs to do it in line with international law, including international humanitarian law," EU Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said Thursday during a news briefing.
As the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prepares for a "next stage" of war, the Biden administration remains focused on the status of American hostages, options for humanitarian corridors and safe zones, and the Israeli response, said principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer.
The Americans held hostage by Hamas remain a key priority, Finer declined to share any new information about the number or status of hostages. The US has sent experts to the region to consult with Israeli counterparts and "advise them on hostage recovery efforts," Finer said.
"This is obviously an area of great concern to all of us people who are stuck in this situation," he said, adding that it will also be a focus of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's meetings in Israel.