Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening, at his press conference at the Kirya in Tel Aviv:
"Citizens of Israel,
This evening we received difficult news. It finally became clear that Col. Asaf Hamami, a hero of Israel, fell in battle on the 7th of October. Asaf was the commander of the Gaza Division Southern Brigade. Two weeks ago I met with his family. We prayed together for a different result, which to my regret, did not materialize. Asaf was a hero for all of us. May his memory be blessed.
Citizens of Israel,
'Whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved the entire world.' Last week we rescued many worlds. We returned 110 souls to Israel. We freed 86 Israeli citizens – children, women, young people, mothers and grandmothers, as well as dozens of foreign nationals. The entire nation and many around the world held their breath as they followed each release.
The boys and girls and young people whom we returned home: Raz, Aviv, Hila, Alma, Noam, Emma, Yuli, Emilia, Avigail, Emily, Gali, Amit, Eitan, Nava, Yahel, Noam, Ohad, Uriah, Yuval, Ofri, Erez, Mia, Noga, Ofir, Dafna, Ela, Tal, Agam, Gal, Or, Yagil, Itay, Maya, Bilal, Aisha, Uri, Natali, Mika, Liam – and many others whom we have released.
These are not just names but souls of boys and girls that we brought back home, we brought them back to life. We will be with them and look after them. I embrace them on behalf of all of you, citizens of Israel: Welcome to those who have left the horrors, welcome back home.
The Psalmist writes (142:8): 'Take my soul out of confinement'. We have taken them out of confinement, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption.
Only one week ago this seemed unbelievable, completely imaginary. And today they are here, wrapped in the love of their families and of the people. How great is the joy of their return, and how great is the pain of those who were murdered amidst terrible brutality and of those who have not yet returned.
I deliberated greatly before the decision. I asked myself how does one negotiate with the Satan who murdered, raped, dismembered and burned human beings, women, children and infants, a Satan to whom human life has no value.
But at the same time, it was clear to me that we could find a way to rescue dozens of hostages from the Satan's claws. I was not prepared to give up on that possibility.
We conducted tough negotiations under fire, from evening to morning and from morning to evening. I spoke frequently with President Biden and we pressed the intermediaries in order to improve the outline. And indeed, we succeeded in considerably improving it.
We applied pressure around the world – the Mossad, the negotiating team, the ISA and the IDF. I was in continuous and daily contact with the White House. The efforts were productive; we doubled the number of those who were released but the mission has yet to be completed.
This week I visited our wounded at Soroka Medical Center. I met there with heroic fighters and another hero, Mia Regev. Mia was abducted by Hamas murderers from the party at Reim. They shot her and wounded her leg. She endured physical and mental tribulations but she is recovering. She is strong. Mia met her brother Itay, who was also abducted and whom we also succeeded in freeing. I stood by her bed. I embraced her. I embraced her father Ilan and her younger brother Guy. What can I tell you citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters, I saw with my own eyes a family that was reborn.
We achieved the releases of our hostages thanks to a combination of the massive military pressure by our heroic soldiers and the relentless diplomatic effort I led along with my colleagues.
My wife Sara and I met again this week with parents of several of our hostages who remain in the terrible Hamas captivity. We embraced them and I promised them: We will do everything to bring them back home – all of them.
In order to complete the sacred mission of returning all of our hostages, in order to eliminate Hamas, and in order to ensure that Gaza does not go back to constituting a threat to Israel, and that there will be no element there that educates its children for terrorism, supports terrorism finances terrorism and calls for the destruction of Israel – we are continuing to fight with full force. Our soldiers prepared for this during the pause – for absolute victory over Hamas.
I met in the field with our fighting men and women who told me: 'Mr. Prime Minister, continue until the end' and I told them: 'To the end – of that there is no question.'
Citizens of Israel, I tell you this evening that you have those whom you can rely on. The fighting men and women of the IDF, the ISA, the policemen and women who have fought with utmost heroism – they are the best. They have great spirit, strength and faith. They nobly and heroically bear the pain of losing their heroic comrades and commanders who have fallen, and thus our entire people – until victory is achieved.
The fighting continues.
The day before yesterday I directed the IDF, together with the War Cabinet, to resume fighting, with increasing force. In the last 24 hours, we have destroyed over 400 Hamas terrorist targets. We carried out extensive aerial attacks in Khan Yunis. We eliminated terrorists and infrastructure in Beit Lahiya. We are continuing to act in the northern Gaza Strip.
Last week, many of you asked what one of our heroic soldiers whom I visited inside the Gaza Strip asked me: 'Will the fighting resume after the days of the pause?' I answered him: 'Unequivocally – yes!' Now the answer is clear to everyone.
I state clearly and unequivocally: We will continue the war until we achieve all of its goals and it is impossible to achieve these goals without continuing the ground incursion. The ground incursion was essential in order to bring about the results up to now, and it is necessary to bring about future results.
I tell our friends around the world, you share our goal of eliminating Hamas and releasing our hostages; therefore, I also emphasize to them that there is no way of achieving these goals except by victory, and there is no way to achieve victory except by continuing the ground incursion. The IDF and the security forces are doing this with determination, strength and while upholding international law.
In the north as well, we are taking continuous action against Hezbollah's efforts to act against us. We are thwarting terrorist cells, pushing the enemy away from our border and destroying war materiel.
We are continuing with the policy that we have determined: Strong deterrence in the north, clear decision in the south.
We are not sitting idly by in the face of the aggression against us. We are returning fire many times over. Let it be clear: We are committed to restoring security both in the south and the north. If Hezbollah makes a mistake and enters into a broad war, it will be destroying Lebanon with its own hands.
Citizens of Israel, we are in the midst of a difficult and bitter war but there is no war more just. It is a war for our home. All of us are united behind the justice of our cause and all of us give full backing to our soldiers. A difficult war is yet before us, but in the end, we will be victorious.
Together we will fight – and with G-d's help, together we will win."