The message Monday from Abu Obaida, the spokesman for Hamas' military wing Al-Qassam Brigades, came soon after Israel launched intense airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, raising the death toll there to more than 680.
"In the past few hours, we have experienced pain over what happened to many families throughout the Gaza Strip from the barbaric fascist Zionist crimes of bombing homes on the heads of their residents, and therefore we have decided to put an end to this," Obaida said in a broadcast. "From this moment on, we announce that every targeting of our people who are safe in their homes without prior warning will be met regrettably with the execution of our enemy's civilian hostages, and we will broadcast this with sound and video."
Obaida's threat comes three days after Palestinian militant group Hamas began taking hostages upon its surprise attack on southern Israel Saturday, with Israel officials still trying to establish the exact number who have been taken into Gaza. Reports say there are more than 100 hostages, ranging from "high-ranking" Israeli army officials to civilians of other nationalities.
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Israel officials say more than 900 people have been killed so far in the country, but just moments before Obaida announced the hostage threat, Hamas' head of political and international relations, Dr. Basem Naim, told Sky News that no civilian had been killed by the militant group thus far.
Naim said he couldn't consider any "settler" who has "stolen my land and is carrying guns" to be a civilian and insisted only Israeli soldiers had been killed. He also said he could "100% guarantee" that each hostage would be treated in a "humane way, a proper way."
"We will try to secure them as much as we can but based on what we've seen … in Gaza, we might lose some of these hostages because of the attacks and bombardment in the middle of the city," Naim said.
Israel shifted to the offensive Sunday after formally declaring war on Hamas, with the military summoning its largest mobilization in history and sealing the Gaza Strip — one of the most densely populated places in the world — off from food and other supplies Monday.
"We have only started striking Hamas," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a nationally televised address. "What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations."
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