Israel's counter-offensive 'only the beginning', Netanyahu vows, as Israeli forces hunt down Hamas in Gaza raids

13 October 2023, 19:58 | Updated: 13 October 2023, 23:18

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel&squot;s Prime Minister, has vowed to "destroy Hamas"
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, has vowed to "destroy Hamas". Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Israel's counter-offensive against Hamas is 'only the beginning', Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed, as Israeli forces hunt down Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

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The Israeli military announced on Friday evening that it had entered parts of the Gaza Strip in raids as it hunts down Hamas and searches for hostages.

The military did not say how many troops entered the area.

Speaking after "localised raids" had begun, Mr Netanyahu vowed to "destroy Hamas".

"Today, everyone knows that we’re fighting for the homeland, and we’re fighting like lions,” he said.

“We’ll never forget the Hamas onslaught. We are striking our enemies with unprecedented might,” Netanyahu added.

“We will destroy Hamas, and we will win, but it will take time."

Israel is preparing a full scale assault on Gaza
Israel is preparing a full scale assault on Gaza. Picture: Alamy

It is the first time the military said ground forces had entered the area, ahead of an expected full-scale ground invasion. It has put the strip under a massive bombardment following Hamas's massacre last Saturday.

Infantry and tank units were involved in the raids, which were aimed against rocket insurgents.

"Over the past 24 hours, IDF forces carried out localised raids inside the territory of the Gaza Strip to complete the effort to cleanse the area of terrorists and weaponry," a statement from the Israeli Defence Forces said.

"During these operations, there was also an effort to locate missing persons."

Israel has called up hundreds of thousands of reservists to bolster its army ahead of the attack, and has kept the densely populated, heavily urban area under air attack.

Hamas claimed on Friday evening that 70 people, primarily women and children, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on convoys fleeing Gaza City.

Read more: Hezbollah's chief says terror group is 'fully prepared' to join Hamas war against Israel during Lebanon rally

It comes after Israel was accused of using white phosphorus in Gaza, the use of which is legal to make smoke screens, but not cause burns or start fires.

"The current accusation made against the IDF regarding the use of white phosphorus in Gaza is unequivocally false," the IDF said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to "destroy Hamas"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to "destroy Hamas". Picture: Getty

Hamas has continued to fire rockets after its gunmen rampaged through southern Israel, massacring civilians and kidnapping innocent people to hold in Gaza. It is though they hold at least 120 people.

It has led to more than 1,000 deaths on both sides after a week of violence.

Read more: Israel's current response will only 'strengthen' Hamas by rearing Gazans who seek revenge warns this James O'Brien caller

Fighting in the urban area is expected to be extremely tough. The area is heavily built up and Hamas will have prepared defences against invading Israelis.

Besides the usual tactics Hamas and other terror groups have available to them, it is feared an extensive tunnel network exists around the strip, making fighting the insurgents even tougher.

Israel has raided Gaza in the last 24 hours
Israel has raided Gaza in the last 24 hours. Picture: Alamy

Israel has already told more than a million Palestinians, or roughly half the strip's population, to move south, with the ground assault believed to be days - or even hours - away.

It has already cut off power to the area and its internet is due to be cut.

Israel has dropped leaflets over Gaza telling them to flee.

"To the residents of Gaza City, terrorist organisation have started war against the state of Israel," they say.

"Gaza City has become a battlefield. You must evacuate your home immediately and head to the south Gaza valley."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the order "impossible" without "devastating humanitarian consequences".

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have been deployed to the north of the country to deter any attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It is feared the well-armed militia could join in and open up a second front.

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