Netanyahu: Our Allies Understand 'If Israel Doesn't Win, They Will be Next'


JERUSALEM, Israel – As military forces completed their first day of an official ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Saturday night that the nation is fighting “a second War of Independence.” He said in a joint statement with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz, “This is our second war of Independence. We will fight to defend our homeland. We will fight and not retreat.”

The prime minister was referring to the war in 1948, shortly after the declaration of Israel’s rebirth as a nation, when the Jewish state was attacked by surrounding Arab armies. 

In the statement, Israel’s leaders saluted the soldiers who entered Gaza and are defending other parts of the country, saying they “join a chain of heroes of Israel that has continued for 3,000 years,” from the time of Joshua to the Yom Kippur War and beyond.

Netanyahu also welcomed the support from the U.S. and major leaders in Europe, noting, “Our allies in the West and our partners in the Arab world [in the war against ‘barbarism’] understand today that if Israel does not win, they will be next in line in the axis of evil’s campaign of conquest and murder.”

The prime minister and his wife Sara also met Saturday at a Tel Aviv military base with families of some of the 230 Israeli hostages in an effort to comfort them personally and to assure them that the government “will utilize and exhaust every possibility to bring them home.” Netanyahu told them the key is “the degree of pressure. The greater the pressure, the greater the chances.”

The families asked the government for an “everyone for everyone” exchange, calling for the release of Hamas prisoners held by Israel  for lesser offenses than murder to secure the release of their loved ones.

On the military front, the Israel Defense Forces repeated their urgent warning Sunday to Palestinian residents in the northern Gaza Strip to move south, as the array of tanks and troops mobilized on the northern edge of Gaza advance.

The I.D.F. announced that internet service and communications have been partly restored in the area of battle, and the military says Israel has attacked 450 Hamas targets. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the fighting, one seriously.

Supporters of Hamas continue to rally against Israel’s military campaign. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a large pro-Palestinian demonstration in Istanbul Saturday, telling the crowd that Turkey is prepared to declare Israel as a “war criminal” because of the Gaza incursion.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen indicated Israel is reassessing its diplomatic relations with Turkey after Erdogan’s comments.

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