Israel entered the 23rd day of fighting with a press briefing by the government, the first time since the war started that the Prime Minister has faced the press. Netanyahu said in a Saturday evening briefing, “Last night (i.e.. Friday), additional ground forces entered Gaza, marking the beginning of the second stage of the war, whose goal is to destroy the military and political capabilities of Hamas and to bring our kidnapped citizens back. We are only at the beginning of the road. The war will be tough and long,” the prime minister said. But he stressed, “We are prepared for it. This is our second War of Independence. This is our mission, our purpose in life, and together we will prevail.”
During the Q&A Netanyahu was asked if he takes overall responsibility for Israel’s intelligence and security failures of October 7th? He declined to respond but in a post overnight Saturday, Netanyahu asserted that he had never received any warning about Hamas’ intentions to start a war against Israel and blamed the defense establishment – citing Aharon Haliva and Ronen Bar, the heads of Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet security service – for Israel’s failure to anticipate the attack on October 7.
Facing a barrage of criticism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deleted the controversial social media post on Sunday. The prime minister then published a new tweet, saying that he apologizes for his claims and that he fully backs the heads of Israel’s security establishment.
National Unity Party Chairman Benny Gantz said that he believed the ground operation, alongside other efforts, could also advance the return of the now 230 captives.
Overnight Friday, Israel also took out several senior Hamas terrorists who played strategic roles in the planning of the October 7 Hamas massacre that killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
Two major Palestinian mobile networks, Jawwal and Paltel, said that their phone lines and internet services were down after the new strikes.
The US Treasury announced new sanctions aimed at cutting off financing for Hamas, targeting its investment fund and Iranians who funnel money and support to the group. The United States estimates that Hamas controls $500 million worth of assets that it uses to finance terrorism.
The IDF announced on Friday that Shifa Hospital in Gaza City—the largest in the Strip, with more than 1,500 beds, 4,000 staff and people gathering in recent weeks around the hospital grounds as well—is cynically being used as a “shield for its underground terror complex,” said IDF Rear-Adm Daniel Hagari, the spokesperson for the IDF. The Gazan network of underground combat tunnels, dubbed “the metro” by the IDF, is often placed right next to sensitive sites like hospitals, mosques, schools and UNRWA installations as part of a deliberate doctrine by Hamas to limit IDF airstrikes. Pointing to a map of the Shifa Hospital at a press conference, Hagari said that Hamas conducts its command and control out of places like the X-ray room to plan terror activities like launching rockets.
“It is here in Shifa Hospital where Hamas operates its command-and-control cells. Hamas terrorists operate inside and under Shifa Hospital, with a network of terror tunnels. It also has an entrance to the tunnels from different places in the hospital,” said Hagari. “Right now, terrorists move freely at Shifa Hospital.”
Earlier today a new barrage of rockets fired from Gaza were destined for Tel Aviv, Herzlia and Ra’anana. In addition, trading of mortar fire continues with Hezbollah on the Lebanese border as well. World criticism of Israel’s bombing of Gaza continues to ramp up with Turkey’s Erdogan accusing Israel of war crimes. Israel, in retaliation for those remarks, has brought its diplomats stationed there back to Israel.
In an example of what happens here never stays here, there was widespread destruction of McDonalds outlets in Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon last week, fed by anger over the fact that McDonald’s Israel was supporting the war effort by providing hundreds of thousands of free meals to the troops who were mobilized by Israel to defend us.
Thankfully the spirit of the population here remains high, as does the morale of our troops. But there is, of course, great dissatisfaction with the present government that is being widely blamed for “falling asleep at the wheel” as it were in the run up to October 7th. It is difficult to see how the present government can remain in power once the hostilities end. Let us hope that they end soon and in our favor.