Israel’s government has released disturbing images of children and civilians killed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as it seeks to rally international support for its response to the deadliest attack on its soil since 1948.
Blinken sees evidence of Hamas brutality
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived in Tel Aviv on Thursday, said he was shown photographs and videos of a baby riddled with bullets, soldiers beheaded and young people burned alive in their cars or hideaways by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It’s simply depravity in the worst imaginable way,” Blinken told a news briefing. “Images are worth a thousand words. These images may be worth a million.”
Blinken also expressed his condolences to the families of more than 1,300 Israelis who were killed by Hamas in a surprise assault on Saturday, which targeted unsuspecting communities near the Gaza border. He reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and right to self-defense.
Israel vows to annihilate Hamas
Netanyahu has vowed to annihilate Hamas following the attack, which he called “a war crime of unprecedented proportions”. He said Israel would not stop until it had destroyed the group’s military infrastructure and leadership.
The Israeli air force has launched intense bombing raids on Gaza over the past five days and is massing tens of thousands of troops along the border ahead of a possible ground invasion. In Israel, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, the country’s military chief said on Thursday, “Now is the time for war.”
Gaza authorities said more than 1,400 Palestinians, mainly civilians, including children, have already been killed and more than 6,000 wounded. A land invasion in the densely populated territory could send the toll much higher.
NATO ministers shown horrific video
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant played a video to his counterparts at NATO’s Brussels headquarters that he said showed horrific scenes from the Hamas attack. “Children were tied up and shot. Yes, I repeat, children, tied up and shot,” he told fellow ministers by video link according to a text of his address sent to Reuters.
He also showed them images of dead infants in a pool of blood and the charred body of a child, which were also released on social media by Netanyahu’s office. The message said: “Hamas is inhuman. Hamas is ISIS,” comparing the Palestinian group to the Islamic State, which was notorious for its brutality and gory execution videos.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the images “confirmed the brutality of the attacks” and expressed his solidarity with Israel. He also urged both sides to de-escalate the situation and protect civilians.
Hamas denies harming civilians
Hamas has denied its militants harmed civilians, accusing Israel and the West of spreading false reports to incite violence against Palestinians. It said its attack was a response to Israel’s aggression and occupation of Palestinian lands.
The group also claimed responsibility for firing hundreds of rockets into Israel since Saturday, some of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. It said it would continue to resist until Israel lifted its blockade on Gaza and ended its oppression of Palestinians.
The United Nations has called for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access to Gaza, where many people are facing shortages of food, water, medicine and electricity. The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the crisis.