Israel Latest: Netanyahu Says War Will be Long and ‘Difficult’

Israel is “at war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, after militants from the Gaza Strip fired over 2,000 missiles and infiltrated southern parts of the country early Saturday. The surprise attack has killed at least 200 Israelis, while at least 230 are dead in Gaza following reprisal strikes by the Israeli military.

(Bloomberg) — Israel is “at war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, after militants from the Gaza Strip fired over 2,000 missiles and infiltrated southern parts of the country early Saturday. The surprise attack has killed at least 200 Israelis, while at least 230 are dead in Gaza following reprisal strikes by the Israeli military.

The operation by militant group Hamas — which included taking Israeli hostages — was an unprecedented incursion into Israel and may lead to a full-scale assault on Gaza and possible attacks on Hamas allies and supporters around the Middle East.

Netanyahu, in a call with Joe Biden, said Israel is preparing for a long conflict. The president gave a brief public address saying US “support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.” 

All times Israel.

Israel Targets Gaza in Overnight Strikes (12:16 a.m.)

Israeli warplanes struck targets in Gaza overnight, including militant cells it said were trying to enter Israel by sea and through the security fence that encloses the enclave, the military said in a statement. 

An operational command center tied to rocket launching and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad post were also targeted, the military said. 

Almost 250 Palestinians Killed in Gaza, Hamas Says (12:09 a.m.)

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip reported 232 dead and close to 1,700 wounded on Saturday, following an incursion into Israel by heavily armed Hamas gunmen.

Blinken Urges PA to Help Restore Calm (10:50 p.m.)

In a call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attacks and “urged the Palestinian Authority to continue and enhance steps to restore calm and stability in the West Bank,” spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Netanyahu Says War ‘Will Be Difficult’ (10:38 p.m.)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip will be lengthy. He said the attack that left over 200 Israelis dead is some of the worst violence the nation has ever seen.

“This war will take time. It will be difficult. Challenging times are ahead,” Netanyahu said in a televised address from the Defense Ministry headquarters. “We will win this war, but the price is hard to bear.”

The Israeli prime minister said children and elderly civilians are among the dead and among the hostages taken to Gaza.

Israel Death Toll Rises to 200 (10:20 p.m.)

The Israeli death toll has risen to at least 200, the foreign ministry said. Heavily armed Hamas militants infiltrated towns near Gaza and went “door to door” in Israel killing and kidnapping innocent civilians, the ministry said. It added that Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities.

Biden Says Israel Under Terrorist Attack (10:08 p.m.)

President Joe Biden condemned the deadly surprise attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas as an assault by a “terrorist organization” and pledged “rock solid” US support for Israel. 

“Today, the people of Israel are under attack, orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. In this moment of tragedy I want to say to them and to the world, and to terrorists everywhere: The United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have her back,” Biden said Saturday in remarks from the White House.

Israeli Air Force Targets High Rises (9:41 p.m.)

Israeli fighter jets struck two multi-story buildings in the Gaza Strip, which housed Hamas’s Intelligence headquarters and its weapons production offices, among other units, Israel’s military spokesman said. This demonstrates how Hamas deliberately embeds its military assets in the heart of Gaza’s civilian population, the spokesman said.

“We will change the reality on the ground in Gaza for the next 50 years,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a separate statement. “What was before, will be no more. We will operate at full force.” 

Netanyahu Calls for Emergency Unity Government (9:06 p.m.)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited opposition leaders to form an emergency unity government, his party said in a statement, following the deadly incursion in southern Israel.

The Likud Party says the proposal was raised in a meeting between Netanyahu and opposition party leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz earlier today. Lapid has called for an emergency unity government. Gantz, in a statement, said he is considering Netanyahu’s offer to join a wartime government “that would focus solely on the security challenges.”

Oil Supplies Unlikely to Be Affected, Says Rapidan (7:40 p.m.)

“While hugely escalatory, the Hamas-Israel war is unlikely to disrupt oil supplies,” according to Washington-based Rapidan Energy Group, which advises energy investors. “Still, were Israel to strike Iranian defense, political, economic, or nuclear facilities, crude prices would immediately spike on the perceived risk of a disruption in the Strait of Hormuz and risks to regional oil facilities.”

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Israel Cuts Power to Gaza (7:35 p.m.)

Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz signed an order for the Israeli Electric Company to stop power supply to Gaza.

Ex-PM Lapid Warns of ‘Multi-Front War’ (6:30 p.m.)

Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s predecessor as prime minister and now opposition leader, warned there “is a serious risk that this becomes a multi-front war.”

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He said he told Netanyahu he was “willing to put aside our differences and form an emergency, narrow professional government.”

Iran Praises Attacks on Israel (6 p.m.)

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry praised the attacks, saying they “opened a new page in resistance and armed operations against the usurpers of occupied territories.”

“The element of surprise was used again in this operation and it shows the self-confidence of Palestinians against their usurpers,” the spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said, according to the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency. It “showed once again how fragile the Israelis are in the face of a serious operation.”

Israel’s Military Says Hamas Has Taken Prisoners (5:40 p.m.)

The Israel military confirmed prisoners of war were taken by Hamas during Saturday’s fighting, citing hostage “incidents” in Ofakim and Bari. The military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, added that they don’t have exact numbers yet. An unspecified number of Israeli soldiers have been killed. 

Hagari said dozens of Hamas militants infiltrated a large number of locations, with a separate naval infiltration at Zikim. “We are fighting in 22 locations,” he said Saturday evening. 

Brazil to Call Urgent UN Security Council Meeting (5:10 p.m.)

Brazil, which holds this month’s rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, said it plans to urgently convene a meeting on the Hamas attack on Israel. The timing hasn’t been confirmed. 

Death Toll Rises to 70 in Israel, Almost 200 Reported Killed in Gaza (5 p.m.)

About 70 Israelis were killed in Saturday’s Hamas incursion, according to the government-mandated aid agency Magen David Adom. The estimated death toll has risen from an initial 22. 

At least 198 people were killed and 1,610 injured in retaliatory strikes by Israel on the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said. 

Biden Backs Israel’s Right to Defend Itself in Call (5 p.m.)

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the US stands by Israel and backed Israel’s right to defend itself, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office after the pair spoke by phone Saturday. Netanyahu thanked Biden for his support.  

Biden Offers Israel Sweeping US Support in Hamas Attack Response

Netanyahu told the US president that a forceful, prolonged campaign is needed to neutralize threats to Israel. 

Red Cross Decries Civilian Hostage-Taking (4:10 p.m.)

A top Red Cross official, responding to images on social media, said the agency was “aware of reports relating to people being captured or detained” in Israel by armed Hamas insurgents in Saturday’s surprise attack. 

“Carrying out, or threatening to carry out, an act of hostage-taking is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Fabrizio Carboni, International Committee of the Red Cross regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in a release. “The violence directed against civilians is appalling and cannot be justified.” 

Saudi Arabia Calls for Halt to Escalation (4 p.m.)

Saudi Arabia called for an end to hostilities, while saying the situation had been inflamed by Israel depriving Palestinians of their rights.

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“The Kingdom recalls its repeated warnings of the dangers of the explosion of the situation as a result of the continuation of the occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights, and the repetition of systematic provocations against its sanctities,” the Saudi government said in a statement. 

The international community needs to “activate a credible peace process leading to the two-state solution,” according to the statement.  

UN Envoy Urges All Sides to ‘Pull Back From the Brink’(3:10 p.m.)

“I am deeply concerned for the well-being of all civilians,” said Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who said he was in close contact with all sides. 

“This is a dangerous precipice and I appeal to all to pull back from the brink.”  

Hezbollah Says Attack Should Send ‘Message’ About Israeli Ties (2 p.m.)

The Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah called the Hamas operation a message to Arab countries against normalizing ties with Israel. Armed resistance was the only way to confront Israeli “aggression,” Hezbollah said in a statement reported by the Times of Israel.  

Hezbollah said it was in direct contact with Hamas leadership in Gaza and beyond. 

Israeli Jets Strike Hard in Gaza Strip (1:52 p.m.)

Dozens of Israeli fighter jets struck 17 military compounds and four operational command centers belonging to Hamas in the past few hours, Israel’s defense forces said.  

Israel ‘At War’ With Militants, Netanyahu Says in Video Message (11:40 a.m.)

Israel is “at war. Not an operation, not a round – war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement in Hebrew after what he termed a “lethal, surprise offensive” by Hamas early Saturday. 

Netanyahu said he’d issued guidance to the heads of Israel’s security establishment to “cleanse all settlements of the terrorists who have infiltrated them.” Israel’s reserves will be mobilized to “fight back at a scope and power that the enemy has not met,” he added.  

Israel Calls State of Alert for War as Gaza Rockets Strike 

–With assistance from Ethan Bronner, Galit Altstein, Gwen Ackerman, Fadwa Hodali, Arsalan Shahla, Marie Patino and Grant Smith.

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