IDF said infantry forces and tanks entered the Gaza Strip on Friday in “localized raids” in order to clear the area of potential terrorists and locate missing Israelis in a likely precursor to a full-scale incursion in response to the weekend Hamas onslaught that killed more than 1,300 Israelis.
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said armored and infantry forces carried out searches and “thwarted anti-tank guided missile squads that intended to infiltrate into Israeli territory.”
“The forces located findings that may help in the effort to locate the missing,” Hagari said. “We will continue to make every effort to find every detail about the missing and hostages,” he added.
An estimated Hamas took 150-200 people hostage during its murderous attack last Saturday. The IDF has so far notified the families of 120 hostages that their loved ones are being held in the Gaza Strip.
Later Friday, Hamas published a propaganda video showing its members holding young Israeli children and babies in a kibbutz in southern Israel last weekend in an apparent attempt to downplay its murderous attack.
The video shows terrorists taking a number of small children and infants out of homes in Kibbutz Holit. One clip shows the terrorists giving a child a glass of water to drink, and another clip shows terrorists rocking a baby in a stroller.
Parents of the children are nowhere to be seen. It is not immediately clear if the children were among those taken hostage into Gaza.
There is clear evidence showing that Palestinian terrorists murdered several young children during its attack last weekend. (US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv on Thursday, cataloged some of what he called Hamas’s “countless acts of terror in a litany of brutality and inhumanity,” specifying, “Babies slaughtered, bodies desecrated, young people burned alive, women raped, parents executed in front of their children, children in front of their parents.”)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked concern, when he suddenly announced late Friday that he would make a televised address to the nation. No Israeli prime minister has done so on Shabbat, the Jewish Day of Rest, since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin did so in 1994 to announce the failed rescue attempt of kidnapped IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman.
However, it appeared that Netanyahu’s address was only intended to boost morale or to allay criticism that he has not been seen with the families of the dead or hostages.
“Today, everyone knows that we’re fighting for the homeland, and we’re fighting like lions,” he said. “We are all united.”
“Much more will be told of the heroism of our people in the dark days of the deep pain of that cursed Shabbat — stories that will be etched into Israel’s identity,” he said.
He says he spoke earlier today with more of the families who lost loved ones or whose loved ones are missing. “Their worlds have fallen in,” he says. “I know.”
IDF launches first ‘localized’ raids into Gaza ahead of expected ground invasion
“We’ll never forget the atrocities that our enemies carried out,” he said, “and we’ll never forgive. And we’ll never let the world, or anyone, forget these atrocities, [of a kind] that were not done to the Jewish people in many decades.”
We’re hitting “our enemies with unprecedented force,” he said, but “I stress: It’s only the beginning.”
“Our enemies have only just begun to pay the price. I won’t detail what will come next. But I’m telling you, it’s only the beginning.”
Israel is garnering “immense international support,” he said. “We are ensuring the continuation of the war, with more ammunition and weaponry coming to Israel.”
“We will destroy Hamas, and we will win. It will take time,” Netanyahu says, “but we will end this war stronger than ever.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed Netanyahu after the premier’s primetime address.
“It is not unacceptable for the prime minister of Israel to send an entire country into a whirlwind of panic while waiting for his statement on Friday night during a time of emergency and then not say anything new either about the families of the abductees, not about the northern front, not about evacuation,” Lapid tweeted.
“Such statements must not made by a prime minister unless he has new information to bring to his people and the country,” he added.
The raids into Gaza came as Israel warned civilians in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, as it appeared set to intensify its attacks on terrorist targets in the Gaza City region and possibly launch a ground invasion in response to Hamas’s deadly onslaught against southern communities.
Hagari said residents of Gaza City have begun to move southward. “The population of Gaza City has started moving south significantly in order to protect itself,” he said in a press conference.
The group called on Palestinians to “remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation,” according to a statement from its authority for refugee affairs.
A statement on the terror group’s website called Israel “delusional” for thinking people will flee.
“Scenes of migration and displacement are a thing of the past and won’t be repeated, except with the victorious return of our people to our occupied land,” the group said.
Amid international criticism of the order, the White House said it was a “tall order,” but that the United States understands Israel is trying to give civilians “fair warning.”
“We understand what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to move civilians out of harm’s way,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
“Now it’s a tall order. It’s a million people, and it’s very urban, dense environment. It’s already a combat zone. So I don’t think anybody’s underestimating the challenge here of effecting that evacuation.”
The IDF’s evacuation order for northern Gaza set off a flurry of panic, according to accounts from inside the Strip.
“This is chaos, no one understands what to do,” Inas Hamdan, an officer at the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza City, told AP, grabbing whatever she could throw into her bags as the panicked shouts of her relatives could be heard around her. She said all the UN staff in Gaza City and northern Gaza have been told to evacuate south to Rafah.
Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, said there is no way more than one million people could be safely moved that fast.
“Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’re going to make it, if you’re going to live,” Farsakh said, breaking into heaving sobs.
“What will happen to our patients?” she asked. “We have wounded, we have elderly, we have children who are in hospitals.” Farsakh said many of the medics were refusing to evacuate hospitals and abandon patients. Instead, she said, they called their colleagues to say goodbye.
Al Jazeera correspondent Safwat al-Kahlout said relatives are trying to figure out where they can even go if they move south.
“More than one million Palestinians are panicking, are confused, and they don’t have a plan, and they don’t understand what to do. Now my children are asking me, ‘Where should we go?’ I said, I don’t know.”
Hagari said Hamas would be responsible for any harm to civilians who do not evacuate from the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas is taking advantage of the residents of the Gaza Strip, bringing disaster upon them and calling on the residents of the Gaza Strip at this time as well not to listen to the IDF’s recommendations,” Hagari said.
“The responsibility for what may happen to those who do not evacuate is on Hamas’s head,” he said.
At the same time, Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel, including one targeting northern Israel, and the IDF hit dozens of targets in Gaza.
Hamas in a statement said it launched an Ayyash 250 rocket — which is claimed to have a range of 250 kilometers — from the Gaza Strip at northern Israel, setting off alarms in the upper and central Galilee, including in Safed.
The long-range rocket was intercepted by the David’s Sling medium-range air defense system, a military source said. It was the first use of David’s Sling during the ongoing war.
According to police and the Fire and Rescue services, two fires were caused as a result of shrapnel that rained down over the area of the interception. No injuries were caused.
It appeared to be the furthest location in Israel that Hamas has targeted since fighting began last weekend. Hamas launched an Ayyash 250 rocket toward the southern city of Eilat in a round of fighting in May 2021. Before that launch, the group’s range was thought to max out at 160 kilometers.
Rockets meanwhile continued to pound southern Israel throughout Friday, with damage being caused to several homes in Sderot and Ashkelon.
Also Friday, a rocket launched from Gaza at the central city of Rehovot slammed into a residential area, moderately wounding a woman in her 30s, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.
The Israel Defense Forces said it had struck dozens of drone launch sites in the Gaza Strip that were located on the roofs of residential buildings.
“This is another example of how the Hamas terror group uses the citizens of the Gaza Strip as a human shield,” the IDF said in a statement.
Hamas has claimed to have launched several drones at Israel since the fighting began last weekend.
The IDF published footage of drone strikes against the “hostile UAV launch positions.”
“The IDF will continue its intense offensive activity, and will work to destroy the Hamas UAV array completely,” the military added.
The Israeli bombardments are seen as part of the preparations for a likely ground assault, which could see the IDF forced to engage in brutal urban warfare.
IDF launches first ‘localized’ raids into Gaza ahead of expected ground invasion
Israel’s prime minister and defense minister have both stated their intention to “wipe Hamas off the face of the Earth,” with the terror group believed to have military infrastructure entrenched throughout the Strip.
The Hamas-run health ministry says 1,799 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,388 have been wounded in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip since fighting began on October 7.
The IDF also has said it has killed some 1,500 Palestinian terrorists in Israeli territory.
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