IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says troops are operating inside Gaza City, and are surrounding it from several directions.
“We have advanced another significant stage in the war. The forces are in the heart of northern Gaza, operating in Gaza City, surrounding it, and deepening [the ground offensive], and achievements,” Halevi says in a statement from an Air Force base.
“The forces are fighting in a dense and complex urban area, that requires professional combat, and courage,” he says.
He says troops are engaged in close-quarters combat. “Ground forces are accompanied by accurate intelligence, with fire from the air and sea. This partnership makes combat much more effective,” Halevi continues.
“Our warriors, fighting in close quarters against a cruel enemy, have a huge advantage: Camaraderie and battle spirit flow through their veins,” he says. “The spirit of Israeli society and the justice of our cause accompany us at all times.”
Halevi says this war has “a painful and difficult price,” with 18 soldiers being killed in the ground operation so far. “We lost the best of our sons in the war, we embrace their families… we will continue to win.”
He says the IDF has an “obligation” to return home all the hostages being held by Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
“We did not launch a war against Hezbollah” in the north, he says. “Our policy is that anyone who approaches the northern border and constitutes a threat to Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers, we will hit them. That’s what’s been happening in the past few weeks. That’s what will happen going forward. I don’t recommend that any of our enemies join the fighting. Our force is ready and can widen its activities to additional fronts.”
He says the Israel Air Force is active in Gaza “with considerable force.” But he stresses that “less than half” of the IAF’s power is being utilized in Gaza. Most of its force is ready, with bombs loaded, “should the need arise to attack on other fronts.”
He says the army is fighting “in the name of the sanctity of life, against an enemy who has engraved death on his flag. We are fighting for our right to live in safety and to thrive in our homeland.”
“We have no other country in the face of absolute evil. We are acting with composure, intelligence and determination,” he says.