© Kobi Gideon/GPOPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting, April 7, 2024.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday marked six months since Hamas's October 7 massacre, which launched the ongoing war in Gaza, vowing that Israel would achieve "complete victory" over Hamas and calling for unity among Israel's citizens. "We are a step away from victory," he said.

In a statement delivered at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to the goals of the war: "To return all our hostages, to complete the elimination of Hamas in the entire Gaza Strip including Rafah, and to ensure Gaza will no longer constitute a threat to Israel."

"I made it clear to the international community: There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. It just won't happen," Netanyahu said. "This is the Israeli government's policy, and I welcome the fact that the Biden administration made it clear the other day that this is still its position as well."

Citing the "war's considerable achievements," Netanyahu specified that the IDF "has destroyed 19 of the 24 Hamas battalions," killed, wounded or captured "a significant proportion of the Hamas terrorists," cleaned out "Hamas terror bases at Shifa [Hospital] and many other places," and was methodically destroying the Hamas underground tunnel network, amid other successes. (The IDF puts the number of Hamas battalions destroyed at 18.)

Turning to the ongoing negotiations for a temporary truce and hostage release deal, Netanyahu said that "Israel is not the one preventing a deal. Hamas is preventing a deal."

"Its extreme demands were intended to bring about an end to the war and leave it intact; to ensure its survival, its rehabilitation, its ability to endanger our citizens and our soldiers," the premier continued. "Surrendering to Hamas's demands will allow it to try to repeat the crimes of October 7 again and again, as it promised to do."

Hamas has so far stuck to its demands for a complete ceasefire and pullout of Israeli troops from Gaza in exchange for a hostage deal — demands that Jerusalem has so far rejected.
© Miriam Alster/FLASH90People visit at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv on April 7, 2024, six months after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw terrorists kill some 1,200 people and seize 253 hostages — 129 of whom are still held hostage in Gaza.
Rattling off a list of threats Israel has eliminated in recent days, and mentioning, for the first time, the return of hostage Elad Katzir's body to his family, Netanyahu said Israel "must unite to repel the attacks against us."

"This is the time for unity. But precisely at this time, an extreme and violent minority is trying to drag the country into division," he said, in an apparent reference to ongoing anti-government protests that are calling for an immediate election. "There is nothing our enemies want more."

"Let our enemies make no mistake — the absolute majority of the people are united in the need to continue fighting until victory," Netanyahu continued. "The majority of the people, and I am among them, condemns any manifestation of violence within us — riots and violations of the law, trampling on demonstrators or attacking policemen, wild incitement and murderous violence on social media," he said, seeming to refer to the violence at a protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, including a car ramming a crowd of demonstrators.

Netanyahu also pointed the finger at Iran, stating that the war has "shown the world what we always knew — Iran stands behind the attack against us through its proxies."

"Since October 7 we have been attacked on many fronts by Iran's proxies — Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, militias in Iraq and Syria, and other attacks," he said.
israel flag burning
© ATTA KENARE / AFPDemonstrators burn an Israeli flag during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5, 2024.
Israel launched its war on Hamas in Gaza after the terror group's October 7 massacre in southern Israel, in which close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were slain, and 253 were kidnapped to Gaza, where more than half are believed to remain.

Amid the IDF's ground offensive, launched in late October, 260 soldiers have been killed and 1,552 were wounded.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Israel has exchanged daily fire with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in the north since October 8, while Yemen's Houthis and pro-Iran militias in Syria and Iraq have fired missiles and drones at the country.