Israeli military warns Hezbollah: 'Watch very closely what is happening to Hamas'

After a Hamas terror attack on Israel, the country launched operations in Gaza.

October 15, 2023, 11:46 AM

Israel is preparing for a potential multi-front conflict in the Middle East the wake of Hamas' terror attack on the country earlier this month, an Israeli military spokesman said Sunday.

Speaking with ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz, Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Peter Lerner confirmed that they have prepared for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, which would mark the first incursion into the exclave since 2014.

"We will strike Hamas from the top, through its institutions, all the way down to the individuals that conducted the butchering of our babies," Lerner told Raddatz, adding, "We did not ask for this war, but we will win it."

The Gaza Strip is a small, densely populated Palestinian territory adjacent to southern Israel with some 2 million. It has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade.

Hamas militants launched their attack from Gaza into Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,300 and injuring more than 3,300 others, according to Israeli officials.

Iran's foreign minister on Saturday suggested to reporters that Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group to Israel's north, could become involved in the war amid Israel's ongoing retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

Lerner said on "This Week" that Israel is ready for such an escalation.

"We have recruited some 300,000 reservists in order to be prepared for any eventuality. Those reservists are both for the southern front, on the border with Gaza, so they're in staging grounds preparing for a potential ground invasion if the government instructs us to do so. But also, they're dispersed throughout the communities and on the border and frontier with Lebanon in anticipation for potential uptick in violence with Hezbollah," Lerner said.

"We have had several skirmishes along the border over the last few days. And even today, during the day, we've had anti-tank guided missiles fired at forces, indeed causing some casualties. So we need to be prepared," Lerner said. "I would highly recommend that Hezbollah watch very closely what is happening to Hamas and the organization in Gaza as we speak. They should be very cautious of crossing that threshold, because we are determined to defend the state of Israel."

Lerner's warning comes amid increased fighting in the Gaza Strip since Hamas terrorists launched their rocket and ground assault on Israel, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country's history.

PHOTO: Israeli soldiers arrive at Sderot, a town close to the Gaza Strip, Oct.11, 2023.
Israeli soldiers arrive at Sderot, a town close to the Gaza Strip, Oct.11, 2023.
Ohad Zwigenberg/AP

Israel has responded by launching a barrage of airstrikes on Gaza, among other moves.

More than 2,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including more than 700 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Israel has called on Palestinians in the north of Gaza to evacuate to the south as it targets Gaza City and other locations. International observers criticized both the scope and suddenness of that order. The U.N. called it "impossible."

On "This Week," Raddatz pressed Lerner: "Why not allow everyone who needs to get out, to get out before this assault begins?"

He maintained that Hamas has been discouraging people from moving away from the fighting -- "that just goes to show how Hamas is actually trying to put the people of Gaza at more risk."

Lerner also denied that Israel had recently attacked a convoy of evacuees, saying such claims were a false flag by Hamas.

"We have instructed people living in the north of Gaza to exit towards the south, to move down, and we're seeing the images of people actually adhering to our message," he said.

Lerner also briefly addressed the hostages that Hamas has been holding in Gaza since its attack. The IDF said on Sunday morning that there were 126 captives in Gaza. (American officials have said U.S. citizens are among those.)

"It is Hamas who has the responsibility to return them to Israel immediately," Lerner said on "This Week." "I want to be very cautious in anything I say because I don't want to jeopardize any steps that could happen in order to bring to their release, hopefully. But it is a component of our operational planning."

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