Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that Israel's war on Hamas has entered a new phase in a dramatic television address to the Israeli people on Saturday night.
Dressed in all black and joined by Benny Gantz and defence secretary Yoav Gallant, Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli troops and tanks were stepping up their assault on Hamas terrorists in Gaza, warning of a "long and difficult" war ahead.
“We always said, ‘Never Again’. Never Again’ is now.” Netanyahu said, adding: "We have eliminated countless murderers, including mass murderers. We destroyed countless headquarters and terrorist infrastructure. We are only at the beginning,”
“We will fight to defend the homeland. We will fight and we will not withdraw, we will destroy the enemy “above ground and below the ground.”
"This is a war of light over darkness, life over death. This is the mission of our lives and my life.”
Earlier today, Netanyahu met with families of those kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, calling their abduction "a crime against humanity,” Netanyahu added: "We will utilize every opportunity to return our kidnapped brothers and sisters to their families’ embrace.”
Netanyahu, who has faced criticism within Israel for the security failures that led to the October 7 massacres, also hit out at foreign critics of the IDF, saying: “The IDF is the most moral army in the world; the IDF does everything to avoid harm to non-combatants,” adding that those accusing Israel of war crimes were "hypocrites and liars."
In a rallying call to the country, the prime minister said that Israel was "fighting not only its war but humanity’s war against the barbarians.”
“Our allies in the Western world, and our partners in the Arab world, know that if we do not win, they are next in line in the campaign of conquest and murder from the axis of evil,”
He also answered questions from journalists for the first time since the war began three weeks ago, implying that he would co-operate with any inquiry into the failures that led to Hamas's incursion into southern Israel, saying: "After the war everyone will have to give answers, myself included.”
Speaking after Netanyahu, defense minister Yoav Gallant confirmed that Israel was escalating action in Gaza, saying Hamas was "suffering shocks it has never suffered,”
He added: “The strength of the fire shook the ground in Gaza, and it’s different from anything Hamas has experienced since its creation.
“IDF forces are maneuvering in the relevant places, and are striking Hamas arrays right now, above ground and underground.”
Gallant also addressed the plight of the more than 220 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza, saying that he had full faith in the IDF, Shabak and Mossad to give IDF soldiers the intelligence needed to find those kidnapped.
Describing the operation to rescue the abducted Israelis as "not a secondary objective." Gallant told Israelis to prepare for a long war and added that the IDF was prepared to engage enemies on multiple fronts if necessary.
War cabinet member and former IDF general Benny Gantz also spoke, rejecting international calls for a ceasefire, saying Israel would "do what is right for us,”
He added: “This is total evil against total justice. And justice will win."