UPDATE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli soldiers are now in the Gaza strip, in what he characterized as the next stage of the war with Hamas.
Appearing at a press conference that was covered on major news networks, Netanyahu said that ground forces have gone into Gaza, entering the terrritory through the “gates of evil,” with the objective of eradicating Hamas’ military capabilities and to retrieve hostages.
More from Deadline
“Our brave troops and combatants are now in Gaza or around Gaza,” he said.
He also pushed back against accusations that Israel was committing war crimes, saying that it was Hamas that was using people as “human shields,” per the BBC. He said that Israeli Defense Forces were taking steps to try to protect civilians.
Netanyahu said that the Israeli troops “are deployed all over’ the Gaza strip.
He said that they decided to expand operations in Gaza in a “very educated” manner.
“This will be a long and difficult war,” Netanyahu said, while assuring Israeli citizens that they would win.
Per the BBC, Netanyahu said that “we will fight and we will not surrender. We will not withdraw.”
PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY: The Fox News chyron read “Israel’s Ground Invasion About To Begin,” as news networks continued their watch for a potential invasion overnight.
On CNN, Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy told Erin Burnett, “I am not going to speculate as to whether this is the invasion.”
But throughout the evening, networks offered an array of analysts to give their takes on whether the stepped up bombing in Gaza was a prelude to an invasion. Earlier in the afternoon, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “We have to be careful not to jump to conclusions here.” He said that Israel could be creating a “buffer zone” in advance of troops moving in to Gaza.
The Israeli Defense Forces said it was “expanding ground operations” in the region, with Axios’ Barak Ravid reporting incursions in northern Gaza.
Networks also continued to schedule special programming, with Hallie Jackson anchoring The Breakdown: Israel-Hamas War on NBC News Now.
PREVIOUSLY: A surge of Israeli airstrikes over Gaza this morning and announcements of further military action has cable news anticipating a ground invasion of the Hamas-run jurisdiction could finally be starting.
“Clearly something is happening tonight,” Fox News’ Trey Yingst said live at just before 10 pm local time from the Gaza border. “We don’t want to speculate, or call this it for what it could be, because we need to wait and we need to be patient here, but this is unlike any other night we have covered, we’ve been out here the past 21 days,” the correspondent added under self-described “heavy fire” as tanks moved behind him and and weapons fire exploded.
“We do not have confirmation on exactly what’s happening on the ground,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper told viewers Friday live from Israel as the night lit up behind him also. “We simply do not know,” the BBC said said as what have been termed “limited operations” by Israeli ground forces commenced.
“We are beefing up the pressure on Hamas,” Mark Regev of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office told Fox’s Martha Bowes MacCallum in an interview from Jerusalem just after noon West Coast time. “I can’t be more specific of course at this stage, but Hamas is feeling now Israel’s might.” Appearing minutes later on MSNBC, Regev referred to today’s operation as “payback” for Hamas’ shocking and murderous offensive into Israel almost three weeks ago.
From the White House, the National Security Council’s John Kirby said the Biden administration was not going to “get into the habit of chiming in from the sidelines.” In another sign of the administration’s strong support for the Jewish state, Kirby added, “the US will not draw Red Lines for Israel.” Jordanian’s Foreign Minister Friday said a “humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions” will be one of the results of Israel’s estimated 300,000 troops moving into Gaza after Hamas leadership.
Earlier this morning, Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Brig. General Daniel Hagari bluntly said in a press conference: “The ground forces are expanding their operations tonight.” Declaring that the airstrikes were targeting “terrorist infrastructure,” he added that the holding of over 200 hostages by Hamas and rumors of a wide-spread release is a form of “psychological terror.” Brig General Hagari went on to say, that talks on the hostages are ongoing. “This is an extended ground raid,” he also said of the troop moves.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and the BBC World News all went live with Hagari’s remarks as part of their already in process coverage of the conflict. Having cut in with special reports on numerous occasions since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7, broadcast networks stayed with their regularly scheduled programming Friday.
The terror raid on the Jewish state left over 1400 dead and hundreds captured in the worst attack on Jews since the Second World War. In the weeks since October 7, Israeli airstrikes have left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands ordered to evacuate.
Live from Israel, CNN’s Nic Robertson in the past hour said live on air that “perhaps indicates that troops are engaged in some level of fire fight on the ground inside of Gaza right now. The network’s International Diplomatic Editor added: “We can’t define it, we can’t know it for sure …it’s all indicative of what the IDF has been speaking about, about using greater force, about expanding the incursions that have been going on over the past couple of nights.”
“Israeli troops are on the move here along the Gaza border,” Fox News’ Yingst also noted on the Rupert Murdoch-owned channel with the sounds of artillery explosions and trucks in the background. “It’s getting louder and louder as they go up this ridge behind us …it’s an indication that these troops are moving closer to the border …for limited raids.”
While nothing official, events were moving very fast. Cell service and online communications have gone down in Gaza, reports say. Fox’s Yingst noted that only those in Gaza City with “foreign SIM cards” can call out right now.
“We are seeing an intensification of explosives over and in the Gaza strip more than we’ve seen in recent days, said CNN’s Jake Tapper a couple of hours ago from a late-night Tel Aviv, with Cooper by his side. “The IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, have not commented on what seems to be a definitive uptick in military activity. They are not commenting whether there has been officially any upscaling of their operations targeting Hamas.”
Fox’s Yingst said earlier Friday: “The sun went down a few hours ago and the Israelis have been ramping up airstrikes all along the Gaza strip…massive explosions behind us …roar of Israeli fighter jets overhead.” In a helmet and vest, Vingst noted the “limited ground incursions” by IDF over the past 48 hours and added of today’s action from the air: “This is significant though tonight, because over the past 21 days we have not seen any sort of bombardment like we are witnessing unfolding here in Southern Israel.”
Best of Deadline