24 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza during Israel-Hamas war, IDF says

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TEL AVIV — Hamas militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli military mission preparing to demolish a building, killing 21 reserve soldiers, the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday, the deadliest incident for Israel in its Gaza offensive.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said in a televised statement that the RPG round hit a tank and appears to have set off the Israeli explosives on the two-story building. Three other soldiers were also killed in Monday’s fierce fighting.

The IDF has been creating a 600 meter wide buffer zone along the border and destroying buildings there as part of the efforts to protect Israeli communities across the border, added Hagari. The current conflict began after Hamas attacked communities in southern Israel, killing at least 1,200 on Oct. 7.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Tuesday that the IDF has launched an investigation into the incident.

“We must learn the necessary lessons and do everything to preserve the lives of our warriors,” he said. “In the name of our heroes, and for our own lives, we will not stop the fight until reaching absolute victory.”

The latest casualties bring the number of Israeli soldiers killed since the ground operation began to 217. According to the U.S. State Department, 21 Americans serving in the IDF have died in the conflict.

“This is a war that will determine the future of Israel for decades to come,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a social media post on Tuesday. “The fall of our fighters is a requirement for achieving the goals of the war.”

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The news comes as Israel has gradually withdrawn some forces from northern Gaza in recent weeks, saying that the next phase of the war will include more targeted raids and assassinations than the wholesale campaign that has razed much of the north.

But fighting continues, especially in the central and southern areas, and around the city of Khan Younis and approaching Rafah, on the border between Gaza and Egypt, where more than 1 million Palestinians have taken shelter.

Israel announced Tuesday that its ground troops had encircled Khan Younis in the south and, along with the air force, had killed dozens of Palestinian militants, according to its statement. The city is believed to be housing Hamas military leader Yehiya Sinwar, and is the main focus of the IDF’s current battle with the fighting expected to last for weeks.

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The IDF instructed residents of several parts of Khan Younis, including the city center, to evacuate late Monday.

Raed al-Nams spokesman for the Palestine Red Crescent in Gaza texted that “the situation in Khan Younis is very hard until now. It is basically forbidden to enter or leave it.”

The Israeli campaign in Gaza has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, after more than 100 days of fighting in one of the most destructive wars so far this century, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Israel has kept at least three brigades, alongside additional special forces, inside the enclave, according to a military release this month. But Hagari, the spokesman, said on Tuesday that “more reservists will be required in all the combat arenas.”

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He said the military strategy going forward would include “both freeing up reservists and focusing the activities.”

“We will be required to recruit reserve personnel again and act again in all the theaters of war, in the south and in the north,” he said, adding that Israel has another duty — to allow some of the hundreds of thousands who enlisted since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack to return to their families, jobs and studies “in order to allow the state of Israel to fight for a long time.”

Hazem Balousha in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

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