Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that every member of Hamas is a “dead man,” as he announced a new national emergency government to fight against the Palestinian militant group.
The premier said that the people and leadership of Israel were “united” in fighting Hamas, whose attacks in the south of the country on Saturday have been followed by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
“We saw the beasts. We saw the barbarians we are facing,” Netanyahu said in a televised address, according to The Times of Israel. “We saw a cruel enemy” which was “worse than ISIS.”
“How staggering the atrocity. How great the pain,” Netanyahu said. “We are fighting with full force, on every front, we have gone onto the attack. Every member of Hamas is a dead man.”
The emergency Israeli government includes Benny Gantz’s National Unity party. The main opposition leader, Yair Lapid, has not joined, although a seat would be reserved for him in the war cabinet.
As 360,000 Israeli reservists gather near the Gaza border for a potential land invasion, the Israeli prime minister continues to face condemnation from media outlets such as Haaretz for the failures that led up to the Hamas attack.
Questions remain as to how Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, and all the assets of the Israel Defense Forces, failed to predict the attack. Netanyahu has denied that Israel ignored repeated warnings from Egypt about an imminent attack.
“The failure is his and the responsibility for the catastrophe is his, but on the other hand we are at war and people don’t want him to resign in the middle of the war,” Emmanuel Navon, CEO of the NGO ELNET-Israel, told Newsweek. “Therefore he should stay as the head of the government and have a fully unity government as far as the war is being fought but he should not stay a single minute in power the day the war is over.”
When asked by Britain’s Channel 4 News about criticism that Netanyahu “took his eye off the ball,” before the Hamas attacks, the Netanyahu adviser Mark Regev said: “Obviously mistakes were made.”
Israelis “have always prided ourselves on having an excellent intelligence service and here we were taken by surprise,” Regev said. “There are allegations that the army wasn’t quick enough in its initial response. That has to be looked into, that will be investigated, we have to see what lessons need to be learned.
“Israelis are free to criticize” Netanyahu, but polling shows: “there is strong support for a national unity government” and that “this is the time for Israelis to unify and meet the common threats,” he said.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he had told Netanyahu that Israel must “operate by the rules of war.” The death toll in Israel has reached 1,200, and over 1,000 people in Gaza have been killed by Israeli air strikes, according to Reuters.