Eight Israeli soldiers killed in Rafah operation, IDF says

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in Rafah operation, IDF says

2 hours agoBy Hugo Bachega, BBC Middle East correspondent • Ali Abbas Ahmadi, BBC NewsGettyA file image of Israeli soldiers along Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip

Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in a blast in southern Gaza on Saturday, Israel’s military said, the deadliest incident for the army in the war since January.

The soldiers were in an armoured vehicle that was hit by a major explosion that, according to a preliminary investigation, detonated explosive “engineering material”, the army said.

The incident happened during an operation in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah, which has been a key target for Israeli forces in recent weeks.

Earlier, the armed wing of Hamas said it had fired a rocket towards an armoured vehicle after setting up an ambush.

The soldiers were returning from an overnight operation in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood at around 05:15 local time (03:15 BST) when their armoured vehicle is understood to have exploded.

Israeli media reported that Israeli forces had killed 50 fighters in that operation, and Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 30 Palestinians have been killed in the past day.

In a statement on X, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) identified 23-year-old Captain Wassem Mahmoud as among those killed and said the names of the other soldiers would be released once the families have been notified.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had paid “a heart-rending price in our just war in defense of our homeland”, but said his country would continue fighting this war “to ensure our existence and our future”.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant also expressed his sorrow, saying “the pain that comes with such loss is immense”.

Israeli ground troops are continuing to operate in Rafah to oust Hamas from what it calls its “last major stronghold”.

Aid agencies have warned of a dire humanitarian situation in Rafah, where the UN says around one million Palestinians are taking refuge.

On Wednesday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a significant proportion of Gaza’s population was facing “catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions”.

Several world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have urged Israel not to conduct a full scale assault on Rafah.

The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, and many hundreds of thousands more have been injured or displaced.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others back to Gaza as hostages.

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