Netanyahu confirms Israeli troops in Gaza and warns of 'long, difficult' war with Hamas

Netanyahu confirms Israeli troops in Gaza and warns of 'long, difficult' war with Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war against Hamas will be “long and difficult”.

Netanyahu called it a battle of good versus evil and a struggle for Israel’s existence.

He told the nation in a televised news conference on Saturday night that the country has opened a “new phase” in the war – by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea.

He said these activities would only increase as Israel prepares for a broad ground invasion.

The “very clear objectives” of the second stage of the war, he said, is the complete destruction of Hamas.

“We always said, ‘Never again,’” he said. “Never again is now.”

Netanyahu says additional Israeli ground forces have gone into what he called “that stronghold of evil“, referring to Gaza, to “dismantle” Hamas and bring hostages home.

He says that Israeli soldiers and commanders are now “deployed all over” the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu refers to support he says he has been given from allies in the West and Arab world.

He says: “This will be a long and difficult war”, adding: “We will win. We will prevail.”

Describing it as Israel’s “second war of independence”, the PM continued: “We will fight and we will not surrender. We will not withdraw. Overground and underground.”

Without naming Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who accused Israel of war crimes, Netanyahu responded: “Don’t accuse us of war crimes.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“If you think that you can accuse our soldiers of war crimes that is hypocrisy. We are the most moral army in the world.”

He added the Israeli Defence Forces have taken precautions to protect civilians, and accuses Hamas of committing crimes against humanity by “using their people as human shields”.

Gaza’s health ministry, run by Hamas, says more than 7,600 people have been killed since Israel began bombing the territory. The World Health Organisation said on Friday that 40 per cent of the dead were children.

Hamas gunmen killed more than 1,400 people in the murderous assault on in Israel on October 7 – mostly civilians, including women and children.

It came as a man was arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill as at least 100,000 pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of central London demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

One man was detained on Whitehall after a police officer was assaulted during clashes with protesters close to Downing Street, the Metropolitan Police said.

Smoke and explosions caused by Israeli bombardment in Gaza (AP)
Smoke and explosions caused by Israeli bombardment in Gaza (AP)

Punches and kicks were thrown and officers ordered the protesters to move away as a man was taken to the floor and carried away to chants of “let him go”.

The force said the officer suffered a laceration to the head and was receiving hospital treatment following the incident.

Another man was arrested in Waterloo Road on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and making threats to kill.