In his first public statement since the war began, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi on Thursday acknowledged failures surrounding the brutal Hamas invasion on Saturday, but said now was not the time to investigate what went wrong.
“The IDF is responsible for the security of the country and its citizens, and on Saturday morning in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, we did not handle it,” he said. “We will learn, we will investigate, but now is the time for war.”
Halevi said that the military has “a contract with the citizens of Israel, we have stood by it for many years with ups and downs. We are currently at a dramatic low point.” However, he vowed, “we will do everything to restore this contract, bring back security.”
A Channel 12 report on Thursday said that Halevi and a series of IDF generals held a phone consultation on the situation in Gaza just hours ahead of the Hamas onslaught, due to some warnings and irregularities. However, the generals involved, including IDF Southern Command chief Yaron Finkelman and Military Intelligence Directorate chief Aharon Haliva, reportedly decided to wait until morning in order to respond. The Hamas assault began around 6 a.m.
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters Thursday that there were no major intelligence warnings, but confirmed there had been some “signs.”
“There was no such warning. The signs that came up hours before could be based on different intelligence signs,” Hagari said, adding that the military would investigate everything surrounding the terror group’s surprise attack.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vehemently denied claims that Israel received a warning from Egypt about the imminent assault, despite Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the powerful US House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirming such a message was sent, although it is not clear who received it.
Halevi said Thursday that the IDF would do everything it could to safely bring back the estimated 200 Israeli and foreign hostages taken by Hamas into Gaza.
“We will do everything to return the hostages back home,” he said. “The price of war is heavy and difficult… we are killing many terrorists, many commanders, destroying terror infrastructure that supported this terrible, brutal crime.”
“Gaza will not look the same,” he added. “It will take time and we will need to find patience.”
Halevi said that Saturday’s massacre “by murderous Hamas terrorists, the human animals, of our children, our wives, and our people, is animalistic, it is inhumane. The IDF is fighting merciless terrorists who have committed unimaginable acts.”
He added, “Yahya Sinwar, the ruler of the Gaza Strip, decided on this horrible attack, and therefore he — and the entire hierarchy [of terrorists] under him — are dead men. We will attack them, we will dismantle them, dismantle their system.”
Turning to Hezbollah, along Israel’s northern border, Halevi said he had only a brief message for the Lebanon-based terror group: “The IDF is strongly prepared on all of its fronts, for all scenarios. I don’t suggest starting up with us.”
Halevi’s statement came six days into fighting that began with Hamas’s brutal invasion of southern Israel, as it rampaged through border towns, murdering families, mowing down young adults at a music festival, and taking women, children and the elderly captive. At least 1,300 Israelis — the vast majority of them civilians — are believed to have been killed in the attack and ensuing battles.
The IDF said Thursday evening that it had so far carried out strikes against some 3,600 targets in the Gaza Strip, using more than 6,000 munitions. The Hamas-run health ministry said 1,417 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,268 wounded in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.