Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vows to 'completely eliminate' Hamas

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vows to ‘completely eliminate evil’ Hamas from existence as he reveals IDF forces have been fighting in Gaza to destroy terror group and ‘bring back’ hostages – and insists ‘we will come out triumphant’

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ‘completely eliminate’ Hamas on Saturday night as he revealed IDF forces have been fighting within the Gaza Strip to get rid of ‘evil’ and ‘bring back’ hostages.

He told Israeli citizens that the ongoing ground operation is the second phase of the war against Hamas, which he said would see Israeli ‘good’ triumph over ‘evil’.

The IDF is exhausting every option to bring hostages home to their loved ones, Netanyahu added, saying he today met with families of those thought to be trapped in Gaza and that his ‘heart is broken’. 

The press conference came just 24 hours after Israel confirmed it would be expanding ground operations into Gaza – although no major invasion appears to have yet begun.

‘The war inside the Gaza Strip will be long and difficult,’ Mr Netanyahu said, adding that having troops on the ground is ‘only the beginning’.  ‘This is the second stage of the war, whose objectives are clear: To destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home. 

‘We’ve always said never again. Never again is now.’

Moments after Netanyahu addressed the nation, terrified Israelis in Tel Aviv were seen scrambling for cover as rocket sirens rang out across the city. 

Israeli Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ‘completely eliminate’ Hamas on Saturday night

Smoke rises over Gaza, as seen from Israel’s border with Gaza on Saturday

Fire and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel

A Palestinian carries a wounded man following an Israeli airstrike on northern Gaza

People take cover as sirens of incoming rockets sound, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian

People who were attending a demonstration take cover as warning sirens sound of an incoming rocket attack in Tel Aviv

Images show terrified Israeli citizens running for cover after sirens went off

Mr Netanyahu added: ‘Israel is fighting not only its own war but a war for the whole of humanity, a fight against barbarism.’

He also hit out at other Middle Eastern leaders and protesters around the world who have accused Israel of war crimes, saying this claim is ‘hypocritical’ after more than 1,400 people were killed in Hamas’ assault on October 7. 

The Israeli PM called upon those still in northern Gaza to head south, reiterating claims that Hamas uses hospitals as their bases and exploit Palestinian citizens as human shields.

Speaking about meeting the families of hostages held in Gaza, Mr Netanyahu said he felt ‘helpless’, but said he assured them they are not treating the recovery of their loved ones as a ‘side mission’, rather as an intrinsic part of the conflict. 

Up to 229 people are currently being held as hostages in Gaza by Hamas. Earlier on Saturday it was reported Hamas leadership had claimed it was ready to release them – but demanded the release of all Hamas prisoners in return. 

The PM continued: ‘There are moments in which a nation faces two options: to exist or to cease. And right now this is the kind of test we’re facing and I have no doubt how it will end. We will come out triumphant. We will triumph.

‘In the first weeks of the war there were massive airstrikes against the enemy and increased force over the past few days in order to help our enter from the ground in the safest manner.

A picture taken from Israel’s southern city of Ashkelon shows rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on October 28

Moments after Netanyahu addressed the nation, terrified Israelis in Tel Aviv were seen scrambling for cover as rocket sirens rang out across the city

Israelis take cover in an underground car tunnel as a siren warns of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed building

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke during a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv

A picture taken from Israel’s southern city of Sderot shows rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel on October 28

Israel has stepped up its bombing campaign as it enters the ‘second phase’ of the conflict

Civil defense teams and civilians conduct search and rescue operations and debris removal work at the heavily damaged buildings after Israeli attacks at Nuseirat Refugee Camp

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the war had ‘entered a new phase’ with the intense overnight bombing campaign

Israeli air strikes destroyed hundreds of buildings in the Gaza Strip overnight

People gather at the scene where a rocket fired from Gaza hit in the town of Kiryat Ono in Israel on Saturday

Journalists reporting from Gaza on Saturday described the ongoing situation as ‘chaos’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Defence Minister Yoav Gallant (C) and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz hold a press conference

A photo taken from Sderot, Israel on the Gazan border shows flames rising after Israeli attacks on Gaza

‘We have eliminated countless murderers… and we’ve eradicated the infrastructure of terrorism – and it is only the beginning of the road. Our fight inside Gaza strip will be long and difficult. We are prepared for that.

READ MORE: London’s day of protest: Dramatic moment police arrest man ‘for attack that left officer in hospital’ at Pro-Palestinian march in London – as hundreds of demonstrators stage sit-in at Waterloo 

‘This is Israel’s second war of independence. We will fight for the protection of our home land and we will fight on the ground and in the air and in the sea. We will eliminate the enemy above the ground and beneath the ground.

‘We will fight and we will win and this will be the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, life over death, And in this war stand together firmly, united more than ever, certain of our just way.

‘This is mission of our lives, the mission of my life.’

Speaking after the Prime Minister, the Israeli Defence Minister said the IDF is inflicting ‘heavy blows’ upon Hamas but stressed the state has no desire to ‘expand’.

Earlier on Saturday Israeli ground forces were operating in the northern Gaza Strip the army said, more than 24 hours after entering the Palestinian territory three weeks into war with Hamas.

‘Since early Friday evening, combined combat forces of armour, combat engineers and infantry have been operating on the ground in the northern Gaza Strip,’ an army statement said.

Israeli forces have made several smaller-scale ground incursions inside Gaza, but the current one has been their longest presence in the territory since violence erupted with a deadly Hamas assault on October 7.

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the war had ‘entered a new phase’ with the intense overnight bombing campaign.

‘Last night the ground in Gaza shook. We attacked above ground and below ground,’ Gallant said in a video statement, alluding to the network of military tunnels Hamas has built under Gaza.

Israel carried out aerial bombardments of northern Gaza overnight Friday into Saturday, illuminating the sky with explosions and fire

Women walk through devastation in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Saturday; Palestinian health authorities say some 7,700 people have died in Israel’s relentless retaliatory strikes

Huge plumes of smoke rise from the site of an Israeli attack on Gaza on Saturday morning

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has tweeted images of what it says are ground forces, including armoured vehicles, moving into Gaza

‘The instructions to the forces are clear: the action will continue until further notice.’

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Israel would listen to its friends and allies, but would ultimately act to protect its own interests and on its own timescale.

Journalists on the ground in Gaza have reported bombing of an intensity unlike anything seen before, sparking international humanitarian concerns for innocent civilians.

The Hamas-run Palestinian Health authority claims that more than 7,700 people have been killed by Israeli offensives, and as tanks rolled into Gaza last night all internet and mobile signal was cut, leaving families and charities in the dark as to the conditions on the ground. 

Very little aid is getting through to the 2.3 million people trapped in the besieged Gaza, with Egypt earlier accusing Israel of inflicting ‘logistical difficulties’.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday ‘Israeli obstacles’ including truck inspection procedures were impeding the prompt delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian enclave.

‘The trucks must be inspected at the Israeli Nitzana crossing before they head to the Rafah crossing on a journey that takes a distance of 100 km (62 miles) before they actually enter the Rafah crossing, which causes obstacles that significantly delay the arrival of aid,’ a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

The Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt and does not border Israel, has become the main point of aid delivery since Israel imposed a siege on Gaza in retaliation for an attack by Hamas militants from the coastal strip on Oct. 7.

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people all around the world took to the streets to protest against the continued bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

Earlier Israel released images of ground troops moving into Gaza as it ramped up its rhetoric ahead of tonight’s press conference.

Very little aid is getting through to the 2.3 million people trapped in the besieged Gaza

Military vehicles manoeuvre on the border with Gaza on Saturday

A Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson told reporters that the disruption of communications has ‘totally paralyzed’ the health network

A short 15-second video released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shows armoured vehicles gathered in what the military says is Palestinian territory on Saturday, as a spokesperson said: ‘The forces are still on the ground and are continuing the war.’

It came as the IDF said it killed Asem Abu Rakaba, the alleged architect of Hamas’ aerial incursion into the country three weeks ago, and maritime commander Ratab Abu Tshaiban in some of the raids carried out on 150 ‘underground targets’ overnight.

Warplanes struck the targets in north Gaza, including Hamas tunnels, underground combat spaces and other underground infrastructure, killing others from the group.

The armed wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam brigades, said its fighters were battling Israeli troops in Gaza’s northeastern town of Beit Hanoun and in the central area of Al-Bureij.

‘Al-Qassam Brigades and all Palestinian resistance forces are fully prepared to confront the aggression with full force and thwart the incursions,’ it said.

A Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson told reporters that the disruption of communications has ‘totally paralyzed’ the health network. Residents had no way of calling ambulances, and emergency teams were chasing the sounds of artillery barrages and airstrikes to search for people in need.

An estimated 1,700 people remain trapped beneath the rubble, according to the health ministry, which has said it bases its estimates on distress calls it received.

Some civilians were using their bare hands to pull injured people from the rubble and loading them into personal cars or donkey carts to rush them to the hospital. 

In a video posted by local news media, Palestinians were sprinting down a ravaged street with a wounded man covered in the dust of a building’s collapse while he winced, eyes shut, on a stretcher. ‘Ambulance! Ambulance!’ the men shouted as they shoved the stretcher into the back of a pickup truck and shouted at the driver, ‘Go! Go!’

Some Gaza residents traveled by foot or car to check on relatives and friends. ‘The bombs were everywhere, the building was shaking,’ said Hind al-Khudary, a journalist in central Gaza and one of a few people with cellphone service. ‘We can’t reach anyone or contact anyone. I do not know where my family is.’

Israel says its strikes target Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that the militants operate from among civilians, putting them in danger.

The World Health Organization appealed to ‘the humanity in all those who have the power to do so to end the fighting now’ in Gaza. 

‘There are more wounded every hour. But ambulances cannot reach them in the communications blackout. Morgues are full. More than half of the dead are women and children,’ it said in a statement, and it expressed ‘grave concerns’ about reported bombardment near hospitals in the northern half of Gaza.

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