Israel faces ‘long, difficult war’ Netanyahu warns as he vows to reduce Gaza to ‘rubble’

Israel faces ‘long, difficult war’ Netanyahu warns as he vows to reduce Gaza to ‘rubble’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Israel faces a “long and difficult war” following a surprise attack by the Hamas militant group on Saturday.

Rockets were fired across the border from the Gaza strip on Saturday morning while militants rampaged through nearby Israeli communities, taking captives, including women, children and the elderly.

Their air strikes and ground operations killed at least 350 Israelis and injured 1,590. The Israeli Embassy in the UK has confirmed UK national, Jack Marlowe has been reported missing near Gaza after Hamas fighters targeted a music festival in southern Israel.

At least 313 Palestinians died and 1,900 were wounded following retaliatory strikes in a revenge campaign branded Operation Swords of Iron.

In a statement, Mr Netanyahu promised to turn parts of Gaza run by Hamas “into rubble”.

“I say to the residents of Gaza: Leave now because we will operate forcefully everywhere.

“At this hour, the IDF is clearing the terrorists out of the last communities. They are going community by community, house by house, and are restoring our control,” he added.

“This war will take time. It will be difficult. Challenging days are ahead of us.”

He added: “Hamas wants to murder us all. This is an enemy that murders children and mothers in their homes, in their beds, an enemy that abducts the elderly, children and young women, that slaughters and massacres our citizens, including children, who simply went out to enjoy the holiday.”

Rockets rained down on cities including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the early morning blitz, penetrating the nation’s £600million Iron Dome missile defence system.

Air-raid sirens sounded across southern and central Israel as hundreds of explosions rocked Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Yavne and Kfar Aviv. Millions of Israelis were celebrating Jewish holy day Shabbat.

Hamas said it fired a further 150 missiles at Tel Aviv in response to airstrikes on Gaza City, while Israeli energy minister Israel Katz cut off Gaza’s electricity supply.

Hamas fighters wore bodycams to capture live footage of themselves killing Israeli soldiers.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said Hamas had committed “coldblooded murder of innocent men, women, and children”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to work with international partners to co-ordinate support.

He said on Twitter/X last night: “As the barbarity of today’s atrocities becomes clearer, we stand unequivocally with Israel.

“This attack by Hamas is cowardly and depraved. We have expressed our full solidarity to Netanyahu and will work with international partners in the next 24 hours to co-ordinate support.”

Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely has said one British citizen “is in Gaza” following kidnappings by Hamas in Israel but did not clarify if they were being held hostage.

She told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “I know there is one British citizen who is in Gaza at the moment.

“The Israeli government is doing everything we can to help those who are held hostage and every citizen who is taken is returned.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for “calm and stability” in the West Bank after six Palestinians were killed and 120 more injured in clashes with Israeli forces.

Mr Netanyahu said Israel would reinforce its borders to deter others from “making the mistake of joining the war”.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and Iranian dictator Ali Hosseini Khamenei have all supported the strikes.