Israel will 'demolish bloody monsters' of Hamas with Gaza invasion, Netanyahu says, as army prepares offensive

15 October 2023, 07:57 | Updated: 15 October 2023, 18:39

Israel is aiming to 'demolish Gaza'
Israel is aiming to 'demolish Gaza'. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Israel is aiming to "demolish Hamas" with its invasion of Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu has said, as hundreds of thousands of troops gathered on the border ahead of the planned offensive.

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More than a million people were given until 4pm on Saturday to evacuate to the south of Gaza ahead of the attack on Hamas by "land, sea and air".

But the UN warned there would still be major consequences from the forced evacuation due to hospital patients and others being unable to leave.

Israeli Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu convened the first meeting of his government's war Cabinet on Sunday afternoon.

He said that the Israel Defence Forces "are ready to act at any moment, to exterminate the bloody monsters that rose up against us."

"Hamas thought we would be demolished. It is we who will demolish Hamas," he added.

Israeli troops patrolling the border with Gaza
Israeli troops patrolling the border with Gaza. Picture: Getty

Israeli troops are hunting top Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar, who is being held responsible for the initial attack last weekend.

"Yahya Sinwar is the face of evil," Lt Col Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Force (IDF), said.

"He is the mastermind behind this, like bin Laden was.

"He built his career on murdering Palestinians when he understood they were collaborators. That's how he became known as the butcher of Khan Younis [in southern Gaza]."

He said troops would not rest until he was found and killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Getty

"That man and his whole team are in our sights. We will get to that man," he said, adding: "This could be long."

Israel had turned off electricity and water in Gaza in recent days as it bombarded the Palestinian territory. Water came back on in the south of Gaza on Sunday afternoon - a move thought to have been influenced by the US.

Tensions are also rising on Israel's northern border with Lebanon. Israel reported its first civilian death from a Hezbollah strike in the current conflict on Sunday, amid several exchanges of fire with the group.

Israel's defence secretary has maintained that the country has "no interest" in fighting Lebanon - but warned that "if Hezbollah chooses the path of war, it will pay a very heavy price".

Yahya Sinwar
Yahya Sinwar. Picture: Getty

The assault by Hamas killed around 1,300 Israelis, with over hundred thought to have been taken hostage. Israel has responded furiously by bombarding Gaza in a bid to wipe out Hamas. Over 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to their authorities.

More than 1,000 Palestinians are lost under the rubble created by Israeli bombing, the authorities said on Sunday evening.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday afternoon that the "next stage" in the assault on Gaza is coming.

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It comes after Rishi Sunak pledged Britain's continued support for Israel and promised to stand with the UK's Jewish community against a backdrop of rising anti-semitic attacks.

The Prime Minister condemned the "evil" attack by Hamas last weekend, and said that the government would protect British Jews from "shameful antisemitism".

London has seen a "massive increase" in anti-semitic incidents since the start of the conflict, according to the police.

Israeli soldiers near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers near the border with Gaza. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak said: "We stand with Israel, not just today, not just tomorrow, but always.

"And I stand with you, the British Jewish community, not just today, not just tomorrow, but always. Am Yisrael Chai."

The conflict is expected to last for an extended period, as Hamas are well dug-in in Gaza, and are thought to have a large network of hidden tunnels and booby traps.

Mr Sunak said that he knew the coming days and weeks would be "very difficult".

A view of an Israeli military camp as Israel continues to deploy soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles near the Gaza border
A view of an Israeli military camp as Israel continues to deploy soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles near the Gaza border. Picture: Getty

"No words can begin to describe the horror and barbarism unleashed in Israel a week ago. Daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandparents taken from people in the cruellest and most horrific way possible.

"Hundreds of people have been killed, many wounded or missing and others living through the unimaginable agony of having a loved one kidnapped and held hostage.

"British citizens were among the victims. And as we continue to learn more, I know there are families here and in Israel in deep pain and torment.

"My thoughts and my heart go out to everyone suffering in the wake of these attacks."

Many people in Gaza are without water and electricity
Many people in Gaza are without water and electricity. Picture: Getty

He also offered a message to the people of Israel.

"Britain is with you. What took place was an act of pure evil and Israel has every right to defend itself. We will do everything we can to support Israel in restoring the security it deserves."

He told the British Jewish community: "I know you are hurting and reeling from these vile terrorist acts.

"At moments like this, when Jewish people are under attack in their homeland, Jewish people everywhere can feel less safe.

"We've seen intimidating behaviour and shameful antisemitism online and on our streets with attempts to stir up tensions. I say, not here.

"Not in Britain. Not in our country. Not in this century. We will do everything we possibly can to protect Jewish people in our country.

Israeli forces began raids looking for Hamas members and hostages
Israeli forces began raids looking for Hamas members and hostages. Picture: Getty

"And if anything is standing in the way of keeping the Jewish community safe, we will fix it."

Sir Keir Starmer also released a message marking a week since the Hamas attacks and backing Israel's right to defend itself.

The Labour leader said: "A week ago we awoke to the unimaginable and heartbreaking news of terrorist attacks on Israel from Gaza by Hamas.

"In the days that have followed we have heard horrific stories of the murder and mutilation of men, women and children, along with the horror of hostage taking.

"Israel has the right, indeed the duty, to defend herself and rescue these hostages. Responsibility for what has happened sits with the terrorists of Hamas; and we repeat our call for Hamas to release all hostages.

"I've met with members of the British Jewish community this week and told them that we stand with Israel and with them at this time. I know this is a distressing and worrying time and welcome the extra funding for the CST (Community Security Trust). There must be zero tolerance of any increase in antisemitism or Islamophobia.

"Hamas has no interest in peace. No interest in protecting Palestinians.

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"We call on all parties to act in line with international law, including allowing humanitarian access of food, water, electricity and medicines to Gaza and ensuring safe humanitarian corridors in Gaza for those fleeing violence.

"Seven days on from the darkest day in Israel's recent history, our resolve in the face of terrorism will not falter."

Amnesty International UK said it was "deeply troubling" that Mr Sunak did not mention the many Palestinian civilians killed in the conflict, including children.

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Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK chief executive said: "It is right that the Prime Minister expressed horror at the cruel and brutal crimes against Israeli civilians committed by Hamas a week ago, which showed a chilling disregard for life and included war crimes.

"But for the Prime Minister not to mention the hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed due to Israeli air strikes or include any call for all parties to the conflict to uphold international humanitarian law, is deeply troubling."

Tens of thousands took to Britain's streets on Saturday to protest Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Fifteen people were arrested in London amid clashes with police.

Mr Netanyahu said in a video to Israeli troops: "You ready for the next stage? The next stage is coming."

Israel gave Palestinians living in northern Gaza a window to leave to the south by two separate routes. The country's government claimed that Hamas was blocking Palestinians in. Hamas said Israel had killed 70 people trying to flee with an airstrike.