Yoav Gallant
Yoav GallantHezki Baruch

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday night spoke for the first time since the IDF resumed fighting in Gaza on Friday morning.

"Over a week ago, we agreed on a framework between Hamas and Israel, and things were clear," he began. "All the women and children held by Hamas should have returned to their homes and families."

"After releasing over 80 hostages – a very important achievement in itself – Hamas violated the agreed framework. Hamas refuses to release 17 women and children held hostage in Gaza – that is 15 women and 2 children. As a result of Hamas’ decision not to fulfill that which was agreed upon, and in accordance with the War Cabinet’s decision, yesterday morning I instructed the IDF to resume fire."

He continued, "Over the past day, I saw the results [of our operations] up close. Yesterday I saw them from withing the cockpit of an IAF attack helicopter. Today I saw them in the field with the combat soldiers deployed to the southern border. The results are very impressive. The IDF has returned to fighting at full force – we are carrying on, exactly where we left off."

"We are keeping our eyes on the goals of this war: defeating Hamas, destroying its governing and military capabilities – not allowing Hamas to continue its rule over Gaza, and returning the hostages to their homes. As long as Hamas refuses to comply with what has been established, we will continue to operate, we will continue to take [military] action, until we achieve the goals we have set for ourselves."

Gallant also noted, "As you expand the military operation, you achieve two goals. First, you strike the Hamas organization – eliminating more terrorists, more commanders, more terror infrastructure, tunnels, command and control rooms and headquarters. Through our military action, we also create the conditions that push [Hamas] to pay a heavy price, and that is in the release of hostages. It is our military action that has led to the release of 110 hostages so far."

"Today, every commander in the Gaza strip understands what happened to the battalions in northern Gaza," he stressed. "They understand what their future holds."

"Hamas will not determine what happens – only the IDF will. Hamas’ morale is low. Eight weeks have passed since the start of the war – including 3 weeks of strikes, 4 weeks of maneuvering and one week during which hostages returned home."

Gallant also noted that "thousands of terrorists have been eliminated,: and hundreds more have been apprehended and are being interrogated in Israel.

"We have 110 civilians [hostages who were released] and an additional 3 bodies, that were returned via IDF operations. The release of 110 live hostages has not been achieved by any other military anywhere in the world against any other terrorist organization – not against Al Qaeda, not against ISIS, not against Boko Haram – we achieved this against Hamas as a result of the IDF’s power and precision, together with the ISA and other security organizations."

Hamas, however, "blatantly violated the framework that was reached together with the United States, Egypt and Qatar."

"We will return all the hostages – until the very last one," the Defense Minister promised. "The IDF, the defense establishment and I myself am personally committed to this task."

Praising the IDF, ISA, Mossad, Israel Police and all the security agencies, he added, "I meet them on a daily basis , I see both the commanders and soldiers, senior and junior officials, and my message to the citizens of Israel is: You have someone to be proud of, you have someone to trust. The IDF and all the security agencies are the defensive shields that ensure our lives in the State of Israel."