Israel-Hamas war: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday told the nationally televised news conference that Israel was determined to bring back all the hostages and the military had opened a “second stage” in the war against Hamas by sending ground forces into Gaza. He maintained that the expanding ground operation “will help them in this mission". Netanyahu asserted the armed forces expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea. He said it will only increase ahead of a broad ground invasion into the territory.
“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,” he said.
“It will be long and difficult. We are ready,” Netanyahu said.
The bombardment, described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war, targeted the underground sites to crush the territory's ruling group - Hamas - after its bloody incursion into Israel on October 7.
Hostages' kin meet PM Netanyahu
The escalation of war built more domestic pressure on Netanyahu to bring about the release of dozens of hostages seized in the October 7 Hamas attack, amid concerns they were being held underground. Desperate family members met with the PM on Saturday and batted for for an exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. A Hamas spokesman proposed a 'swap strategy' to release the hostages.
7,700 dead in Gaza, claims Hamas
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Palestinian death count in Gaza on Saturday rose to just over 7,700. A majority of those killed have been women and minors, the ministry said.
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.
We can both destroy Hamas and rescue hostages: Israel
The Israeli military has sought to assure the public it can achieve the two goals of its war on Hamas simultaneously — toppling the strip's militant rulers and rescuing some 230 hostages abducted from Israel.
But as the army ramps up airstrikes and ground incursions on the blockaded enclave, laying waste to entire neighborhoods in preparation for a broader invasion, the anguished families of hostages are growing increasingly worried those aims will collide — with devastating consequences.
Annihilating Hamas would seem to require a ground operation of unprecedented intensity fraught with the risk of harming Israeli hostages. Saving hostages stuck inside Gaza would appear to require engagement with Hamas, the group that forever traumatized the country when it sent fighters into southern Israel to brutally kill over 1,400 people and take dozens captive.
Israel dismisses calls for ceasefire
Israel launched an expanded ground operation on Saturday after creating a near-blackout of communication in the Gaza Strip with increased bombardment and artillery fire overnight. Netanyahu called it a war for Israel's existence, and said “Never again is now.” Other countries, United Nations officials and aid agencies described a dire situation in Gaza, where 2.3 million people are cut off from the outside world and ambulances without cellphone or radio service chase the sound of artillery to locate the wounded.
(With AP inputs)