Hamas has warned Israel to stop bombing the civilian homes in Gaza without pre-warning or risk the execution of Israeli hostages.
The spokesman for the Hamas armed wing, Abu Obaida, claimed that by protecting the Israeli hostages, they were acting in accordance with Islamic teachings.
Dr Basem Naim, Hamas’s head of political and international relations, had claimed that the group has not “killed any civilians” since its militants crossed the border from the Gaza Strip and launched a surprise attack on Israel on Saturday.
Asked how many hostages the militant group had taken and brought into the Strip, Naim said he could not confirm an exact number, but said they would be treated in a “humane way, a proper way”.
According to Sky News, he said he could “100% guarantee” they would be safe and orders have been given to fighters to not kill or harm elderly people, women, or children.
However, moments later another Hamas official said it would begin executing Israeli civilian captives in return for any Israeli bombing of civilian houses in the Gaza Strip without warning.
Some reports revealed that Qatar is mediating between sides for an exchange of civilian hostages, including women and children.
The attack on Saturday morning took Israel by surprise and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack would “change the Middle East”.
“I know you have been through terrible and difficult things,” he told authorities from the south of the country. “What Hamas will go through will be difficult and terrible. We have only just begun.”
Earlier on Monday, rescuers said they had recovered at least 260 bodies from the site of a music festival in Israel that was attacked by Hamas during its incursion.
However, Naim had earlier told Sky News: “We have not killed any civilians.”
He added that he did not consider anyone “carrying guns” as a civilian.
Naim said: “We have responded to 75 years of occupation, we have responded to 17 years of a suffocating siege, the silent killing of 2.3 million Palestinians.”
He said people in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, are “always under attack” and “never safe”.
“We are living in the biggest open-air prison. You have to choose either to die by F-35 or F-16 or to die silently of malnutrition,” he added.
The two days of violence between Israel and Hamas has reportedly left at least 900 Israelis and 500 Palestinians dead so far.
Meanwhile, Israel has also ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory governed by Hamas, leaving it with no food, electricity or fuel.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres later said he was “deeply distressed” by Israel’s decision to impose the siege.
It comes as Israeli forces continue to fight Hamas militants in two locations inside Israel after formally declaring war on the Palestinian militant group