JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip as the military pounded the Palestinian enclave with air strikes.
“We are putting a complete siege on Gaza... No electricity, no food, no water, no gas - it’s all closed,” Gallant said in a video statement, referring to the crowded enclave home to 2.3 people.
Israel closed all checkpoints surrounding Jerusalem and across the entire West Bank for a third day, restricting all movement, the Palestinian news agency (WAFA) reported on Monday.
Israeli forces have reportedly closed the main Qalandia checkpoints that link northern West Bank to Jerusalem, and all Bethlehem checkpoints linking the southern West Bank to Jerusalem, according to reports from WAFA.
Israel’s troops were still battling on Monday to clear out Hamas gunmen more than two days after they burst across the fence from Gaza on a deadly rampage, and the army said it would soon go on the offensive after the biggest mobilisation in Israeli history.
Fighting raged at several locations inside Israel where the fighters were still holed up after killing 700 Israelis and seizing dozens of hostages in a raid that shattered Israel’s reputation of invincibility.
Israel’s chief military spokesman said troops had re-established control of communities that had been overrun, but that isolated clashes continued as some Palestinian gunmen remained active.
“We are now carrying out searches in all of the communities and clearing the area,” chief military spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said.
Earlier, another spokesman, Lieutenant Colonet Richard Hecht, acknowledged that it was “taking more time than we expected to get things back into a defensive, security posture”.
The shocking images of the bodies of hundreds of Israeli civilians sprawled across the streets of towns, gunned down at an outdoor disco and abducted from their homes were like nothing seen before in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel has already responded with its heaviest ever bombardment of the Gaza Strip, killing some 500 people so far, and could be contemplating an unprecedented ground assault of the territory it abandoned nearly two decades ago.
Hagari said 300,000 reservists had already been activated in just two days.
“We have never drafted so many reservists on such a scale,” Hagari said. “We are going on the offensive.” Hamas says the attack is justified by the plight of Gaza under a 16-year blockade, an Israeli crackdown in the occupied West Bank that has been the deadliest in years, and a far-right Israeli government that talks of annexing Palestinian land.