IDF forces in Gaza
IDF forces in GazaIDF Spokesperson

IDF Chief of Staff Heri Halevi gave a statement to the media this evening (Thursday), in the shadow of the continued fighting against Hamas, and issued a warning to Hezbollah Secretary General Nasrallah.

"We are in the midst of a war. We have advanced another significant step and our forces are now engrossed in a ground operation in the northern Gaza Strip. IDF soldiers have been operating in Gaza City for the past few days, encircling it from several directions, expanding our hold and adding to our achievements in the city," Halevi said.

"Our forces are fighting in a built-up, dense, complex space, which requires very professional combat and a lot of courage. The ground forces are accompanied by precise intelligence and aided by fire from the air and sea. This cooperation [between the defense and intelligence systems is our secret strength. It adds to our achievements and makes the fighting much more effective."

"Our forces are conducting face-to-face battles against a cruel enemy who has a clear advantage on their side - they are evil. The spirit of battle flows in our veins, the spirit of Israeli society, and the righteousness of our way accompany us all the time and this is very noticeable, it is very important. This war has a painful and difficult price; this is an integral part of ensuring our security here. We lost the best of our sons in the fighting, we embrace their families, and with their spirit and memory we will continue and win," Halevi said.

He addressed the issue of the hostages: "This week, we were all moved when the soldier Ori Megidish returned to her family. It was a moment of unity, a shared moment. I allow myself to say that, after years of intense operational service, we had a truly dramatic night during this rescue operation. There were complex decisions, there were risks, and there was a happy ending."

"Ori is of course a whole world, but we also know that this operation is a drop in the ocean. We have a deep commitment to do everything to bring the hostages home - all of them."

"We maintain a high level of preparedness in all areas. We operate on the northern border, resolutely fighting Palestinian terrorism in Judea and Samaria with an emphasis on the Hamas organization, and are constantly committed to being ready for the expansion of scenarios to other sectors as well," he said.

He conveyed a warning to the Secretary General of Hezbollah, "The Air Force is striking in the Gaza Strip with great power and with great effect. But make no mistake - what we have deployed in the Gaza Strip is less than half of the strength of the Air Force! Most of the force is prepared and ready, with bombs on their wings and people who are ready to leap into their planes, to go out and strike in other sectors as soon as needed. We are fighting in the name of the sanctity of life, against an enemy who champions death and destruction."

"We are fighting for our right, and that of future generations, to live here safely and prosper in our homeland. This is our home - we have no other country. In the face of absolute evil, we act with composure, intelligence, and determination. We fight as warriors, with a clear compass of values in our hands, the values that founded our country while surrounded by enemies in many directions."

"The IDF fights on the front lines but does not forget the population. The soldiers of Israel are in towns, and communities, in the dormitories of the evacuees (from the south and the north), accompanying the bereaved families and the families of the kidnapped. This is a broad national effort that touches all in an attempt to bring good everywhere."

"We will lead this fight with a clear vision of our goal. Within our hearts is our Israeli home that strengthens us, and not for a moment will we forget what we are fighting for: a child riding a bicycle in a kibbutz, a couple under their wedding canopy on the way to a new Israeli home, our parents, grandparents, the builders of this land, who put their trust in us, we are fighting for them, and for our own sake," he said.

"We will fight for this and for life as a free people in our country. The people's army comes from the people, and its mission is to ensure our continued existence here and our continued prosperity here in our country."

"I have been visiting the troops in the field a lot. I met reservists who came from the very ends of the world to exercise the right to defend the country, I met young soldiers who just finished the training course and insisted on entering and joining the fighting, participating in the mission of defending the home; I met many commanders who lead their men with courage, professionalism and determination, all wrapped in great talent. I am very proud to stand at their head, and know that the State of Israel, the people of Israel, have someone to trust," said the Chief of Staff.