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Israel is fighting for its existence, ground operation in Gaza coming: Netanyahu

Jerusalem: Israel is in the midst of a fight for its existence and preparations are underway for a ground incursion into Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said and added that ‘all Hamas members are dead men walking’.

In an address to the nation on Wednesday evening, he stressed that the two main goals of the war were ‘to eliminate Hamas by destroying its military and governance capabilities, and to do everything possible to get our captives home’.

Seeking national unity, the prime minister said that, ‘Israel is in the midst of a fight for our existence.’ ‘All Hamas members are dead men walking — above and below ground, inside and outside Gaza,’ Netanyahu said.

Together with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, Minister Benny Gantz, the Security Cabinet, the Chief-of-Staff and heads of the security organisations, ‘we are working round the clock in order to achieve the aims of the war until victory, and doing so without political considerations,’ he said.

The goals are ‘saving the nation, achieving victory’, Netanyahu said and added that ‘we are raining down hellfire on Hamas, and we have already eliminated thousands of terrorists – and this is only the beginning’.

On speculation about an imminent ground operation in Gaza, the Israeli leader said that it was coming but he would not share when or how.

‘We are preparing for a ground incursion. I won’t specify when, how, how many. I also won’t detail the range of considerations, most of which the public is not aware of. And that’s the way it is supposed to be. This is the way, so that we protect our soldiers’ lives,’ Netanyahu said.

Israel has drafted 350,000-400,000 soldiers for a ground operation in Gaza since the dastardly attacks on its southern communities on October 7.

‘I would like to be clear. The timing of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) action will be determined unanimously by the War Cabinet, together with the IDF Chief-of-Staff. Together with the Security Cabinet, we are working to ensure the optimal conditions for our soldiers in the coming actions,’ Prime Minister Netanyahu said.

‘When we go into Gaza, in the continuation of the fighting, we will exact the full price from the murderers, those perpetrators of atrocities’, he said and equated Hamas with Daesh (ISIS).

Netanyahu repeated Israel’s call to Gazan non-combatants to head to southern Gaza. Some 600,000-700,000 Gazans are said to have already moved from the northern part of Gaza to the southern side of the coastal strip.

Some Gazans were even reported to be coming back to their homes in the north in the last two-three days with the ground incursion getting delayed, and sensing a potential lull in the fighting.

However, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said that the army had stepped up its aerial strikes in the Gaza Strip to ‘improve’ its situation for the ground offensive.

‘Today we struck in Gaza City the terror infrastructure in buildings and underground,’ he said on Wednesday.

‘We will continue to strike in Gaza to achieve the goals of the war. Every strike improves our situation for the next stages,’ Hagari added, referring to the expected ground incursion.

The war ‘will be long, and to achieve the goals of the war, resilience, trust and patience are required’ from the public, the IDF spokesperson stressed.

On taking responsibility for the October 7 debacle, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he will face a probe into what happened on that day but that the investigation must not take place until after the war.

‘October 7 was a black day in our history. We will get to the bottom of what happened on the southern border and the Gaza-envelope area. The debacle will be checked to the full,’ he said.

‘Everyone will have to give answers on the debacle, including me, but all that will happen only after the war,’ he said.

Netanyahu said that ‘as the prime minister, I am responsible for securing the future of the state’. ‘Right now, my job is to lead the state of Israel and the people to a crushing victory over our enemies,’ he said.

‘Now is the time to join the forces for one goal: to surge forward to victory… with deep faith in the justice of our cause,’ the prime minister said adding, ‘together we will fight and together we will win.’

(Published 26 October 2023, 01:50 IST)

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