IAF hitting Hamas in Gaza 'even at cost of harm to hostages'

Likening Hamas ‘savages’ to IS, Netanyahu vows victory in war for ‘our existence’

PM pledges crushing response against terrorists who gleefully executed civilians young and old; Herzog laments worst scenes since Holocaust, urges ‘all nations’ to assist Israel

Israelis watch Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a statement to the public on the war against Hamas, on October 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Israelis watch Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a statement to the public on the war against Hamas, on October 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called for the opposition to join an emergency unity government, outlined Israel’s battle plan against Hamas terror, likened the group to the Islamic State group (IS or ISIS), and warned of more “difficult days ahead” for the battered and bleeding nation.

“We are on the third day of the operation,” he said during a televised address to the nation, his first public appearance since Saturday night. “We are in an operation for our home, a war to ensure our existence, a war that we will win.”

“This war was imposed upon us by a despicable enemy — by savages who celebrate the murder of women, children, and the elderly,” he said. “The atrocities carried out by Hamas have not been seen since the atrocities of ISIS. Children bound and executed with the rest of their families, young girls and boys shot in the back, executed, and other atrocities that I will not describe here.”

“We have always known what Hamas is. Now the whole world knows. Hamas is ISIS,” Netanyahu said. “We will defeat [Hamas] precisely as the enlightened world defeated ISIS.”

He said he had ordered five actions at the start of the war.

First, to defeat terrorists still in Israel and prevent others from ending, in an operation that was still ongoing.

For the next step, he ordered a move to a massive, unprecedented offensive operation that was underway. Hundreds of thousands of reserves have been called up to service.

Third, he aimed to keep other fronts quiet — in the north, facing the Hezbollah terror group, in the West Bank, and inside Israel. The West Bank and northern border have seen some violence since the Hamas onslaught. Netanyahu praised the security forces for their work in all those areas.

Next, he vowed to continue recruiting international support for the operation and “preserve Israel’s freedom of action.”

Lastly, and most importantly, he said, was solidifying Israel’s national unity.

“The divisions amongst us are ended. We are all united. And when we are united, we win,” he said.

Now, “the leadership must unify,” he said, calling on the leaders of the opposition to immediately establish “an emergency national unity government with no pre-conditions,” as happened under Menachem Begin in the Six-Day War.

He said Israel has only just begun to hit Hamas and that the pictures of destruction in Gaza “are only the start. We have wiped out hundreds of terrorists and we won’t stop there.”

Israeli security forces at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a shelter in the southern city of Sderot, October 9, 2023. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Wherever Hamas operates, “we will turn into a city of ruins.”

He said he was in “constant contact” with US President Joe Biden and thanked the US for its support for Israel’s security “in word and deed.” The US aircraft carrier on its way to the area sent a message that “our common enemies well understand,” he said. He also thanked many other world leaders for unprecedented support.

Wrapping up his statement, Netanyahu denied that there was any advance warning of Hamas’s massive attack from Egyptian intelligence, as reported earlier. He urged Israelis to be wary of fake news and not to “fall into these propaganda traps.”

“I know we all want results here and now. It will take time,” he said, but when the war is over, “all of Israel’s enemies will know that it was a terrible mistake to attack Israel.”

What Israel will have done to them, he said, will resonate with them “for generations.”

“We have lost entire families, sons and daughters, youngsters and elderly people, soldiers, police officers and security officers, Jews and non-Jews,” he said. “We all share the same destiny… Together we will prevail and together we will win. Only together.”

“Difficult days are still ahead of us,” he concluded. “But we are determined to win this war, to bring life, blessing and light to our people and our state.”

A senior Israeli government source told reporters earlier on Monday that Netanyahu’s defined goal for the war at this stage was to deprive Hamas of the ability and the motivation to harm Israel.

The source noted that “this is a very broad definition, and our interpretation of it is not limited. We don’t want to define it any further, but [Gaza] will not be ‘Hamastan.’”

Israel has decided that its attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza will be carried out with great force and breadth, even at the cost of harming Israelis who are being held captive in Gaza, the source told reporters.

The source clarified that if Israel has precise intelligence information on the location of Israeli captives, it will of course refrain from attacking in that specific location. But so long as no such information exists, all Hamas targets will be attacked.

A missile explodes in Gaza City during an Israeli air strike on October 8, 2023 (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel has indications that Iran pushed Hamas into carrying out its massive infiltration and deadly assault, and that Iran was also pushing Hezbollah to be ready for conflict with Israel, the source said.

Israel has not specified how long the war will last, but the senior source said it will continue for many days, perhaps many weeks, and possibly longer than that.

Regarding the IDF’s attack policy in Gaza, the source clarified that the “roof knocking” policy, whereby the IDF has previously used text messages, phone calls, or an initial strike on the roof to warn residents of a building that it is about to be struck, is not the system currently being applied. In certain circumstances, it will be used, the source said, but Israel was already evacuating masses of the [Gaza] populace from central terrorist areas and attacking there.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the rate of Israeli Air Force attacks on the Gaza Strip was five times that of against Hezbollah in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

In a Monday evening press conference, Hagari said some 60 fighter jets were carrying out waves of airstrikes against Hamas targets at that hour.

He said the military had completed the evacuation of the towns adjacent to the border, and that there were a few families who have chosen to stay.

Hagari said troops were still going from house to house in towns close to the Gaza border, searching for terrorists.

Israeli soldiers take position in the southern city of Sderot, following a Hamas terrorist assault, October 8, 2023. (Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

“There are no terrorists crossing the fence from Gaza into Israel,” he said, noting that those who were trying to enter were being struck by the IAF.

“Since this morning, there have been a few encounters with terrorists. There have been none at all in the last few hours,” Hagari said.

Regarding an armed infiltration from Lebanon a short while earlier, Hagari said the identities of two gunmen killed in the incident were still under investigation. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, said to number more than 100, Hagari said the army has “the full details” on all of those taken captive by the terror group.

“As of now, we have notified 30 families. When we complete notifying the families, the number of hostages in Gaza will be made available to the public,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces chief spoke to troops near the border with the Gaza Strip as fighting continued.

“After a rough start, we are shaping the line of engagement. We hit a lot of terrorists; whoever gets close, they are killed,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said, according to the military.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to troops near the border with the Gaza Strip, October 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We will finish clearing out the area, so that we will not have terrorists here, and, at the same time, we are already on the offense. We have many more tasks, we need to be strong. It started badly, and will end very badly on the other side,” he added.

President Isaac Herzog called for aid from “all nations” in a statement to the international community.

“Not since the Holocaust have we witnessed scenes of Jewish women and children, grandparents – even Holocaust survivors – being herded into trucks and taken into captivity,” Herzog said. “The brutality. The inhumanity. The barbarity of monsters – not humans – monsters.”

He urged the international community to issue “clear and loud condemnations of Hamas’s actions. Just as you condemned the abhorrent and unspeakable actions of ISIS, because today, they are one and the same.”

He said all countries should designate Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist group, and make clear that Hamas carries “carries full responsibly and accountability for the well-being of the hostages it has taken and demand their immediate return to Israel.”

Lastly, he asked countries to “support Israel. In words and in deeds.”

Visiting the wounded at Beersheba’s Soroka hospital, Herzog offered a message of unity to Israelis and a warning to Hamas.

He said that in the hospital rooms, he has seen “what Israeli resilience is, what Israeli heroism is.”

Herzog said Israelis were showing their core values, “a huge heart, a sense of mission, unity, social cohesion.”

He  assured viewers that even though Hamas was trying undermine Israelis’ sense of security, “no one can beat us.”

“It won’t work for you,” says Herzog. “No way.”

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