The IDF is preparing to expand the offensive in the Gaza Strip “from the air, sea and land.”
JNS Staff Report
(JNS) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured on Saturday sites of devastation caused by Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border raid that killed 1,300 people in southern Israel.
Netanyahu visited Kibbutz Kfar Aza and Kibbutz Be’eri, where more than 100 Israelis were butchered, including men, women, children and babies, during last Saturday’s terror invasion.
A short statement from Netanyahu’s office said he “walked between the ruins of the houses where terrible massacres took place.”
IDF officers, including the commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, briefed the prime minister.
The Israel Defense Forces said on Saturday evening that troops were preparing to “expand the offensive” in Gaza, involving a “joint and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land.”
“IDF soldiers are deployed all over the country and are prepared to increase readiness for the next stages of the war, with an emphasis on a significant ground operation,” added the military.
Israeli troops on Friday launched their first “localized” raids into the Gaza Strip in a bid to locate hostages Hamas kidnapped last weekend. Soldiers found and recovered the remains of some of the missing.
On Saturday night, the army said it had notified 126 families that terrorists had abducted their loved ones, and 279 families that their soldier sons or daughters had been killed in action since Oct. 7.
The IDF continued to urge some 1.1 million Palestinians residing north of Wadi Gaza to leave their homes ahead of an anticipated major operation to root out Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure.
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari on Friday accused Hamas of preventing residents of northern Gaza from moving to safety, saying the terrorist group was risking “disaster.”
“The responsibility for what may happen to those who do not evacuate is on Hamas’s head,” Hagari said.
An IDF ground invasion would likely begin in northern Gaza to reduce Hamas’s capacity to fire rockets at Israeli towns and cities.
On Saturday evening, Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi confirmed Hamas is holding captive some 150-200 people brought back to Gaza during last Saturday’s assault.
Hanegbi said that no negotiations were being conducted to secure their release, but that IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, the government’s coordinator for the missing, was providing several updates daily.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on the phone on Friday with family members of 14 Americans presumed to be held hostage in Gaza.
Netanyahu on Saturday night held a security assessment at military headquarters in Tel Aviv that was attended by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and the heads of the Mossad and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), among others.
Earlier, Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister since 1982 to address the nation on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
“Today, we all understand that we are fighting for our home. And we are all fighting tooth and nail: soldiers, police officers, citizens, security forces, health personnel and rescue teams—and Israel’s citizens, with your extraordinary volunteering spirit that has touched the entire world,” said Netanyahu.
“We are all mobilized; we are all united. Stories of the heroic acts of our people in these dark days of pain and grief, of that accursed Saturday, will be told for years to come. Stories that will become an integral part of the history of Israel. We will never forget the horrific acts perpetrated against us by our enemies,” the premier continued.
“We will obliterate Hamas, we will triumph. It might take time, but we will end this war stronger than ever. ‘May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them,’” he added.