The Israeli government and military leaders escalated their war rhetoric on Wednesday as the end of the truce agreement between Israel and Hamas approached.
“Over the past few days I have been hearing this question – Will Israel return to the fighting after maximizing this phase of our hostage return? My answer is unequivocal: yes,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
The truce is scheduled to end at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday (midnight ET).
Netanyahu pledged that Israel would fight until the end.
The Prime Minister said: “This is my policy, the entire cabinet stands behind it, the entire government stands behind it, the soldiers stand behind it, the people stand behind it – this is exactly what we will do.”
Negotiators are working on another possible extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas, which has now entered its sixth day. A State Department spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that lead mediator Qatar is “very optimistic” that an extension will be announced.
A senior Israeli official said earlier that Israel is trying to find out “whether there is a possibility” to extend the truce with Hamas.
Israeli Army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy said on Wednesday that the Israeli army is ready for the next phase of the war in Gaza when the truce ends.
Echoing Halevy, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said, “IDF forces in the air, land and sea are ready to resume operations immediately.” [should the decision be made]”.
But Gallant added that Israel “is taking all possible measures to return the hostages and maximize the current framework within which all women and children held hostage in Gaza will be released.”
Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, part of the emergency war government, noted on Wednesday that “we are in complex moments, and in a window of time within the broad outlines of the return of our hostages.”
We will work to exhaust it as much as possible. At the same time, we are ready and willing to return to the fight at any moment, including these moments.”
Gantz stressed that the fighting will continue and that it “will expand to where it is needed throughout the Strip.” “There will be no cities of refuge.”
IDF Chief of Staff Halevy on Wednesday approved plans for the next phase of the military operation in Gaza, the IDF announced.
Halevy said on Tuesday that the Israeli army is taking advantage of the pause to enhance its readiness to fight.
He added, “The Israeli army is ready to continue fighting.” “We are using the downtime days as part of the framework to learn, enhance our readiness and approve plans for future operations,” Halevy told a group of soldiers in northern Israel.
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