The Israel military has stepped up its airstrikes on southern Gaza’s central city after Hamas warned that no Israeli hostages would leave the territory alive unless its demands for prisoner releases were met. As the conflict entered its third day, the group vowed that it would kill “the mother of every hostage” and that Israel had triggered a “no-return-to-the-table policy” in its effort to take control of the enclave.
Several people have been killed in the new round of bombings, and dozens more wounded, according to the Associated Press. The airstrikes have hit homes, schools, hospitals, and other amenities across the besieged enclave, prompting the Palestinian government to send a delegation to the UN in a bid to stop the attacks.
On Monday, Israeli missiles pounded one of Gaza’s busiest streets in a town called al-Sahaba. It took hours for relatives, neighbors, and rescue teams to clear away the rubble and retrieve bodies. “It was a very dark night; we could hear gunshots and explosions that didn’t stop for hours,” said Mohammad Yousef, who lived in a home that was obliterated by the attack. He said that he and his family had received no warning from the Israeli forces before the strikes.
The attack prompted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to warn of a “great revenge operation.” He called on all Palestinians to come together to fight against Israel. Haniyeh also vowed to crush “the enemy of the nation” and said that it was only a matter of time before Israel was “wiped off the map.”
Israel has been criticized for launching an attack on a day when Jews are celebrating Simchat Torah, which marks the end of the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll. The strike drew comparisons to the 1973 Mideast war, almost 50 years ago, which was launched on Yom Kippur and revived painful memories of Jewish losses.
Some experts suggest that the Hamas threat of no more hostages leaving Gaza is aimed at intimidating Israel into fighting disproportionately and perhaps with greater force. “I honestly think that one of their main goals was simple vengeance,” said Abrahms of the University of California. “Vengeance can have utility.”
An Israeli official cited in the AP suggested that Israel could continue its campaign for months. “I’m not sure how long we can go on like this,” he told Israel’s Channel 12. “This is a war that can’t be measured in weeks and cannot be solved in days.”
But Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow at Chatham House who studies the Middle East, says there will be a truce sooner rather than later. He believes that if the death toll continues to rise, the US might become more concerned about Israel’s actions and pressure it into a ceasefire. Mekelberg believes a truce could be announced in the next few weeks, before Christmas or by the end of this year.