Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuFlash 90/Dana Kopel/POOL

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening spoke at a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz.

"Citizens of Israel. We are fighting a war for our existence, in which we are committed to fight until victory, despite international pressure, and the unbearable heavy prices that the war is exacting from us in our precious sons and daughters," Netanyahu said. "The State of Israel mourns the tragic deaths of three of our hostages – Alon Shamriz, Samer Talalka and Yotam Haim."

"When I was updated about the terrible tragedy – it struck me hard. Alon, Samar and Yotam survived hell for 72 days, they were almost one step from freedom, they had touched redemption and then disaster struck. It broke my heart. It broke the entire country's heart. Our heart goes out to the families in their time of deep mourning.

"At this difficult time, it is important for me to stand by our soldiers. They are giving their lives to achieve a crushing victory over our enemies and return our hostages. We are doing – and will do – everything to safeguard the lives of our soldiers, each and every one of them, and we will use all means so that they are not hurt.

"Since the tragedy yesterday, I have been haunted by one thought: 'What would have happened if something had been different?' I am certain that we are all thinking the same. We were so close to hugging them now. But sadly we cannot turn the clock back. Anyone who has fought on the battlefield knows that the distance between victory and tragedy is a hair’s breadth. In the midst of all this pain, we will learn and implement the lessons, and we will not relent in the military and diplomatic effort to safely return home all of our hostages."

Netanyahu continued, "With all of the deep sorrow, I would like to clarify: The military pressure is essential both for returning the hostages and achieving victory over our enemies. Without the military pressure, we would not have succeeded in creating an outline that led to the release of 110 hostages. And only continued military pressure will lead to the release of all of our hostages. My directive to the negotiating team is based on this pressure, without which we would have nothing."

"On Thursday evening, we lit the last candle of Chanukah. In those days, in the fight for our existence, four of the five Hasmoneans fell and ensured the victory of Israel over an enemy that wanted to eradicate our people. In these days, in fierce battles in Jebalya, Sajaiya, Khan Yunis and other places, the Maccabees of our time have fallen in the fight against an enemy that wants to destroy us. We have lost dear heroes, soldiers and commanders of unparalleled bravery and dedication, heroes that fell in battle so that we might continue to live in our land, so that the thread of our lives will not be cut.

"Together with you, citizens of Israel, I stand by the bereaved families. I cry with them. Coming from a bereaved family, I know that until their last day they will not stop missing their loved ones and crying over what and who they have lost. I spoke with the widow and parents of Lt.-Col. Tomer Grinberg, the commander of the Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion, who fell heroically this week together with his soldiers and those under his command. I told them what I say to all of my brothers and sisters from bereaved families, I know that the pain which rends your heart will never relent. But there is one comfort: To ensure that our heroes will not have fallen in vain, to ensure that we will continue to fight until absolute victory is achieved."

Netanyahu stressed, "I also made this determination clear to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan with whom I met on Thursday. I greatly appreciate the US support for Israel – in the assistance in returning our hostages, in the supply of munitions for the IDF, in blocking the attempts at the UN to stop the fighting, and in other things. I reiterate to our friends: We are more determined than ever to continue to the end – until we eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages, and ensure that, with G-d's help, there will not be any element that educates for terrorism, finances terrorism and dispatches terrorism."

"I say this to the entire world; many around the world understand this and I repeat it this evening as well. This is not 'politics' but policy. This is my policy and today I can say: This is the desire of the vast majority of the country. I will not allow us to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan, that we replace Khan Yunis with Jenin. I will not allow the State of Israel to repeat the fateful mistake of Oslo, which brought to the heart of our country and to Gaza, the most extreme elements in the Arab world, which are committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and who educate their children to this end.

"The debate between Hamas and Fatah is not 'whether' to eliminate the State of Israel but 'how' to do it. According to a poll that was carried out a few days ago, 82% of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria justifies the horrific massacre of October 7th. As of this moment, the Palestinian Authority senior leadership simply refuses to condemn the massacre and some of them even praise it openly. They will control Gaza on 'the day after'? Haven't we learned anything? As the Prime Minister of Israel, I will not allow that to happen.

"It is important to make this clear now because friends tell the truth and not foster illusions, how much more so on an existential and fateful issue such as this. Then I reiterate to our friends: After the elimination of Hamas, the Gaza Strip will be demilitarized, will be under Israeli security control, and no element in it will either threaten us or educate its children to destroy us.

"I want to tell you, citizens of Israel, that while victory will take time, we are determined to continue until the end, despite the immense pain, despite the bereavement that rends our hearts, despite the international pressure. We will continue until the end. Nothing will stop us – until we achieve victory.

"Together we will fight and, with G-d's help, together we will win."

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant commented: "On this difficult evening, the entire nation of Israel shares in the pain and grieves the loss endured by the families of the late Yotam Haim, Samer Talalka and Alon Shamriz- [the families] who lost their loved ones yesterday under very difficult circumstances – very tragic and painful circumstances."

"During the Sabbath I spoke with members of all three families – I spoke with the fathers, with some of the mothers and with some of the brothers [of the hostages]. I heard their pain – these were charged, painful conversations. They were difficult first and foremost for the families, but also difficult for me, personally.

"Over the past hours, the IDF completed its preliminary investigation [of yesterday’s incident], and the conclusions of the investigation were sent to commanders, who will pass them on to their soldiers. I hope to see the [lessons] implemented as soon as possible.

"The neighborhood of Shejaiya is a source of terror. An attack was launched against us from Shejaiya on October 7th as well, but also on various other occasions. IDF troops fought fierce battles in this neighborhood over the years. This time, they face terror in alleys and in homes. Dolls are placed with booby traps or used to ambush our troops. Sometimes tapes are played with the sounds of an infant crying, in order to [lure] soldiers into apartments and then detonate explosives. These are events that have taken place and that continue to take place – you must understand the circumstances and the environment in which our soldiers are operating.

"Throughout my military service, I have lost commanders, fellow troops, and soldiers under my command. I have seen very difficult circumstances and very difficult events. Some of them are very personal - friends have fallen in battle, and in some cases I have experienced loss as a senior commander. This event is one of the most tragic and difficult events I can remember, because we were so close to succeeding and creating different circumstances. The soldiers did not know the circumstances – it is a difficult event that we are experiencing, and what has been done cannot be undone.

"The price of war is a heavy one - we pay it every day, but when you know your goals, when you know that you are fighting for a worthy cause, you know that you have to pay a price. And we are willing to keep going until we achieve our goals: destroying the Hamas [terrorist] organization, eliminating its military and governing capabilities and returning the hostages home to their families.

"I believe that our ways are just – I know that we are fighting the most just war any nation could fight against an evil organization, against those who murdered our children, raped our women and kidnapped our elders. We must fight and we must win.

"In the ground operations conducted in Gaza, we have made many important achievements, chief among them the great pressure applied [on Hamas], the elimination of thousands of terrorists, the destruction of [terrorist] headquarters, warehouses, command and control centers, tunnels – infrastructure both underground and above the ground. The pressure applied on Hamas created the conditions to return 110 hostages back to their homeland. Hamas only responds to force – if we had stayed back, nothing would have happened, we would have waited to this day, two months into the war, and not one of the hostages would have returned. The pressure has two purposes, but unfortunately there are also prices. Our forces fight every day – above and under the ground. They have taken impressive actions and made great achievements, while risking their lives. We must stand by them, supporting them – not only those fighting in the Gaza Strip, but also on our northern border and in the center, where our troops do ‘holy’ work."

Gallant emphasized, "I know that this is a difficult time for all of us – it is also a difficult time for the thousands of combat troops across the Gaza strip. I would like to commend them, strengthen them – we cherish their courage and action, and encourage them to continue until we achieve complete victory. Until we dismantle Hamas and return the hostages."

"This will be a long war – this is a war of national resilience. We will overcome our enemy [Hamas] because we represent justice, we represent the truth, we represent good in the face of evil. We will win this war.

"What has been proven so far and will be demonstrated in the future as well, is that when the IDF operates, and the people of Israel are united – there is no force that can stop us. With G*d’s help, we will win."