Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised news conference on Saturday that Israel’s forces had entered the Gaza Strip, calling it his country’s “second war of independence” and warning Israelis to expect a “long and difficult” campaign to eradicate Hamas.
Mr. Netanyahu said the troops had gone into Gaza on Friday evening, beginning “the second stage of the war.” The Israeli military has not publicly described the current operation as an invasion, and has released only brief footage of its advance.
The ground assault in the northern part of the Gaza Strip was shrouded in secrecy and ambiguity and accompanied by an enormous aerial and artillery bombardment. It was the most sustained fighting against Hamas since the war began three weeks ago, when gunmen from the group that controls Gaza launched a surprise cross-border attack into Israel on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,400 people and spurring retaliatory airstrikes by Israel in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas’s armed wing confirmed on Friday night and Saturday afternoon that the battle with Israeli ground forces had been joined. Shortly before Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks, a spokesman for the group, Abu Obeida, greeted the relentless airstrikes and the ground incursion with defiance. Hamas would make Israel “taste new ways of death,” the spokesman said.
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