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Israeli PM vows to ‘crush and destroy’ Hamas ahead of expected ground offensive into Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel would "crush and destroy" Hamas in response to its attack last Saturday.

Israel forms unity government; officials in Gaza say supplies, power sources dwindling

A man kneels at a grave with flowers on top of it

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel would "crush and destroy" Hamas in response to its attack last Saturday.

During a late-night televised address, Netanyahu said every Hamas member was a "dead man."

His comments came as Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza in response to the unprecedented attack, ahead of a possible ground offensive to root out Hamas, with an estimated 250,000 people made homeless in the Palestinian-controlled territory, many huddling on streets or in schools.

Israel said dozens of its fighter jets struck more than 200 targets in a neighbourhood of Gaza City that it said had been used by Hamas to launch its unprecedented wave of attacks.

A trail is shown in the sky from fire during a war-like attack.

Former defence minister Benny Gantz, a centrist opposition leader, spoke live on Israeli television alongside Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant after forming a war cabinet focused entirely on the conflict.

"Our partnership is not political, it is a shared fate," Gantz said. "At this time we are all the soldiers of Israel."

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Netanyahu said the people of Israel and its leadership were united. "We have put aside all differences because the fate of our state is on the line," he said.

"We will wipe this thing called Hamas, ISIS-Gaza, off the face of the earth," Gallant said on Wednesday, likening Hamas to the Islamic State group. "It will cease to exist."

An Israeli tank fires a shell from Israel toward the Gaza Strip

At around 4:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, Israel's military said it was conducting a "large-scale strike" on targets belonging to Hamas in Gaza. It did not provide details.

The Israeli government is under intense public pressure to topple Hamas after its militants stormed through a boundary fence Saturday and massacred hundreds of Israelis in their homes, on the streets and at an outdoor music festival.

In the same address, Netanyahu also detailed atrocities that took place during the attack. "We saw boys and girls bound, who were shot in the head. Men and women burned alive. Young women who were raped and slaughtered. Soldiers who were beheaded," he said.

His claims about the beheadings had not been independently confirmed but rescue workers and witnesses had described horrific scenes.

A ground offensive carries risks for Israel, too, notably to the lives of many hostages held in the narrow, densely populated Gaza Strip, which is tightly controlled by Hamas.

WATCH | Israel won't rule out Gaza ground invasion:

IDF won’t rule out Gaza ground invasion: ‘All options on the table’

1 day ago

Duration 5:09

Featured VideoWarning: Video contains graphic details | Israel Defence Forces spokesperson Jonathan Conricus tells The National’s Adrienne Arsenault that the military hasn't ruled out a Gaza ground invasion and that it’s now fighting on three fronts after rockets were launched from Syria.

'No place is safe'

Gaza's Health Ministry said at least 1,100 people had been killed and over 5,330 injured in the crowded coastal enclave since Saturday. Some 340,000 of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been displaced due to the war, and around 65 per cent of them have sought safety at shelters or schools, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the enclave.

Canadian Asia Mathkour has lived in Gaza since 2014. She's been forced to relocate five times already since Saturday with her two children, aged four and two, to escape the bombing.

WATCH | Concern for civilians trapped in Gaza:

Crisis builds in the ruins of Gaza

1 day ago

Duration 3:05

Featured VideoThere is growing concern for Palestinians who are essentially trapped in Gaza, cut off from supplies and facing the threat of a full-scale invasion.

She told CBC News that there is just no place safe to go, that virtually every neighbourhood, every building is demolished, and that the threat of a ground invasion is scary.

"People didn't expect this kind of bombs dropping on us. It's not normal," she said. "People are losing their homes, their mother, their children, their spouse. Everything. People are in shock. Everybody is in shock."

She said she hopes the Canadian government can help people like her soon, but admits she doesn't even know what that would look like.

"I don't know how they will be able to take us out," she said.

WATCH | Canadian pleas for help:

Those told to leave Gaza say there's nowhere to go

12 hours ago

Duration 4:05

Featured VideoCanadian Asia Mathkour, who lives in Gaza with her family, says she hopes Canada can help them get out soon, and hopes that they aren't left stranded and waiting for days to hear from somebody. She says everyone wants to leave, but wonders, 'Where are we going to go?'

More than 4,700 Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are registered with Ottawa. Around 700 people want to be relocated, a senior Canadian official told reporters.

Canada will soon start using two military planes to fly out citizens and permanent residents from Tel Aviv to Athens, the official said.

Residents appealing for help on social media said many buildings had collapsed, sometimes trapping as many as 50 people inside with rescue workers unable to reach them.

At the morgue in Gaza's Khan Younis hospital, bodies lay on the ground on stretchers with names written on their bellies. Medics called for relatives to pick up bodies quickly because there was no more space for the dead.

A municipal building was hit while being used as an emergency shelter. Survivors there spoke of many dead.

"No place is safe in Gaza, as you see they hit everywhere," said Ala Abu Tair, 35, who had sought shelter there with his family after fleeing Abassan Al-Kabira near the border.

Hospitals overrun, in need of supplies

Two members of Hamas's political office, Jawad Abu Shammala and Zakaria Abu Maamar, were killed in an airstrike in Khan Younis, a Hamas official said.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Israeli strikes since Saturday have destroyed more than 22,600 residential units and 10 health facilities and damaged 48 schools.

Hamas media said on Wednesday that electricity was out after the only power station stopped working. Palestinians there have long relied on generators to power homes, offices and hospitals, but have no way of importing fuel for those either.

WATCH l Overlapping crises in Gaza, says International Red Cross:

'The Gaza Strip is locked' to humanitarian aid — International Red Cross

1 day ago

Duration 7:36

Featured Video'The large scale of the emergency will mean that for months and years to come, people will need recovery efforts and support,' Tommaso Della Longa, senior spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told Power & Politics on Tuesday. Israel has cut off fuel, food and electricity supplies to Gaza in response to weekend attacks by Hamas.

The World Health Organization says supplies it had pre-positioned for seven hospitals have already run out amid the flood of wounded. The head of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said surgical equipment, antibiotics, fuel and other supplies were running out at two hospitals it runs in Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who has pledged Washington's ongoing support for Israel, sent his top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to the region in a bid to avert a wider Middle East war.

Hamas' armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, said it was still fighting inside Israel on Wednesday, and the Israeli military said a tank fired on three militants in a vehicle near Nir Am kibbutz, just outside northeast Gaza, and killed them.

Israel has deployed formations of tanks and armoured vehicles near Gaza in possible preparation for a ground offensive.

Hamas's armed wing said it had targeted the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa with an R60 rocket. There were no immediate reports of casualties after sirens sounded in Haifa and nearby towns.

Eleven workers with the UN Palestinian refugee agency have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since Saturday, and five members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent have also been killed in the conflict, the organizations said on Wednesday.

Widespread concern for hostages

Israeli security sources said it took more than 48 hours to restore military cohesion, halt infiltrations and clear Hamas fighters from towns they stormed. At least 1,000 gunmen who had infiltrated from Gaza had been killed, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported.

Using a web of deception and relying on motorbikes, paragliders and other basic equipment, Hamas fighters killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took scores of hostages — a move that potentially complicates any Israeli response. More than 2,700 people had been wounded, and among the dead are 155 soldiers.

A helmeted person is shown atop a military tank travelling on a dirt path.

Israel's security minister said he was stepping up the issuing of firearms to licensed citizens, predicting possible friction between the country's Arab minority and majority Jews.

Hamas militants holding Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage on Monday threatened to execute a captive for each home in Gaza hit without warning, but there was no indication they had done so.

Two Canadians are confirmed dead since the weekend attack, and the family of a woman with ties to Ottawa confirmed her death on Wednesday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly did not confirm to reporters whether three Canadians known to be missing were hostages, saying she didn't want to put any life in danger.

Abbey Onn, an American living in Israel, told CBC News she has five family members missing, including those who need medication.

"I believe a ground war would be bad for the civilians of Gaza and for the people of Israel," said Onn. "There's no positive outcome in this but we want innocent civilians that are hostages like my family members returned."

Egypt's shared border closed

The United States said it was talking with Israel and Egypt about the idea of creating a safe passage for civilians out of Gaza at the Rafah border crossing. The crossing remained shut on Wednesday, after Egyptian military planes conducted flights nearby overnight, security sources said.

Egypt confirmed it has discussed plans with the U.S. and others to provide humanitarian aid through its border with the Gaza Strip but said it rejects any move to set up safe corridors for refugees fleeing the enclave, Egyptian security sources said on Wednesday.

One of the security sources, who asked not to be identified, said the safe corridors were rejected to protect "the right of Palestinians to hold onto their cause and their land."

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