Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday announced Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, which marks the “second stage” of what he said will be a “long and difficult” war with Hamas
Speaking in a televised address, he confirms Israeli commanders are deployed “all over the Gaza Strip” as heavy bombing continues.
Israel, he said, had to prevail. He said defeating Hamas was his principal objective. Securing the release of hostages was a secondary objective.
He spoke shortly after meeting the relatives of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas.
The relatives according to BBC report are deeply apprehensive and want assurances that Israel’s military operations, which stepped up a gear 24 hours ago, won’t prove to be a death sentence for their loved ones.
But the prime minister, who said that his heart broke when he met the families, said there was “no contradiction” between defeating Hamas and bringing the hostages home.
The defence minister, Yoav Gallant, also said “the more we hit out at [Hamas], we know that they will be willing to come to some kind of agreement, and we will be able to bring our dearly beloved hostages home.”
Netanyahu has also rejected the allegation of war crimes, in an apparent reaction to the speech attributed to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Israeli PM who did not mentioned any name said, “Don’t accuse us of war crimes. If you think that you can accuse our soldiers of war crimes that is hypocrisy. We are the most moral army in the world.”
He says the IDF is taking precautions to protect civilians, and accuses Hamas of commiting crimes against humanity by “using their people as human shields”.
Meanwhile, leaflets have been dropped over Gaza City warning residents the area is now a “battlefield” and they must leave for the south.
Already, Civilians in Gaza remained cut off from the outside world, as phone lines and the internet are down for most people.
Israel has been bombing Gaza since the 7 October Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 people and saw 229 people kidnapped as hostages
The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 7,600 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began bombing the territory. The World Health Organization said on Friday that 40% of the dead were children.