As the IDF’s ground offensive into the Gaza Strip intensified, the three members of Israel’s war cabinet – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and former IDF Chief Benny Gantz – addressed the Israeli public on Saturday evening for the first time and made themselves available to answer questions from the press.
Netanyahu opened his remarks by confirming that the ground offensive into Gaza had, indeed, begun on Friday.
“Citizens of Israel, yesterday evening, additional ground forces of ours entered the gates of Gaza, at the doorstep of the fortress of evil. This is the second stage of the war, the goals of which are clear: Destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, and bringing the captives back home,” the prime minister said.
He added that the decision to begin the ground operation was made unanimously by the war cabinet.
In his usual style, Netanyahu’s address used allusions to the Old Testament, for example quoting Deuteronomy 25:17, “Remember what Amalek did to you,” while describing the motivation of the IDF soldiers to avenge the atrocities committed by Hamas.
He also compared the soldiers to the “chain of heroes of Israel,” including Joshua, Judah Maccabee and Bar Kochba.
“This our second war of independence,” the prime minister stressed.
“This will be a victory of good over evil, of light over darkness, of life over death. In this war we will stand steadfast, more united than ever, certain in the justice of our cause. This is the mission of our lives. This is also the mission of my life.”
Gallant addressed the press and explained that the ground offensive in Gaza marked Israel entering a new phase in the war against Hamas.
“Our firepower shook Gaza – it was different from anything that Hamas has ever faced, since the day of its establishment, to this day. Our forces are maneuvering in the relevant locations, striking Hamas above and underground – from the air, land, and sea. Hamas is taking blows like never before,” the defense minister said.
This was the first time an Israeli official used the Hebrew word for “maneuver,” confirming that Friday was the beginning of the ground offensive, despite the IDF initially reporting that it was “broadening” of ground operations.
In another apparent warning to the Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon not to join the war against Israel, Gallant stated: “The IDF is prepared on all fronts, in the north, in the center and in the south. We have no interest in expanding the war, but we are prepared. The Air Force invests only a small part of its strength in fighting in Gaza, and it is prepared for any additional mission.”
The defense minister also alluded to the alleged negotiations about the release of additional hostages in exchange for humanitarian aid for Gaza.
“Let’s not deceive ourselves – our enemies do not seek humanitarian [relief]. They seek to remove the pressure of war,” Gallant said, adding that Israel will do “everything possible” to return the hostages.
Gantz, who left the political opposition to join the emergency government with Netanyhau earlier this month, said he praised the international support from allied nations, but stressed regarding the war with Hamas, “there is no diplomatic time limit, only an operational clock.”
Some analysts and Israeli media have criticized the IDF for waiting almost three weeks before beginning the ground operation into Gaza, fearing that international support for Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip would decrease with the passing of time.
“We will do what is right for us,” Gantz stressed.
“All of us – the prime minister, the defense minister, the Security Cabinet, the extended cabinet and the entire command chain – understand the enormity of the hour and the immense responsibility placed upon our shoulders,” Gantz stated. “We also feel the pain and expectations of Israeli citizens.”
When Netanyahu was asked by the press if he bore responsibility for the failures of Oct. 7, Netanyahu repeated a statement he made a few days prior: “After the war, everyone will have to give answers, myself included.”
He also said that he didn't have concrete indications about direct Iranian involvement in the Hamas assault against Israel.
“I cannot tell you for certain that in this specific operation, at this particular moment, they were involved in the micro-planning,” he said, but said because Iran has supported Hamas for years, it bears some responsibility, regardless.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.