Live updates | 21 Israeli soldiers are killed in Gaza as criticism of war’s handling rises at home

The Israeli army said Tuesday that 21 soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip in the deadliest attack on its troops since the war began, as criticism grows over the government’s handling of the 3-month-old war against Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead until Israel crushes the ruling Hamas militant group and wins the freedom of over 100 hostages held captive in Gaza. Israelis are increasingly divided on the question of whether it’s possible to do either. On Monday, hostages’ family members disrupted a committee meeting in Israel’s parliament, yelling, “You won’t sit here while they are dying there!”

Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip pounded the southern city of Khan Younis on Monday, pushing thousands of Palestinians to flee even further south. The war has displaced some 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, and one in four of them are starving, the United Nations says.

The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, which erupted on Oct. 7 when militants from Gaza attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

Currently:

— Families of Israeli hostages storm Knesset, demanding a deal for their release.

— Twenty-one Israeli soldiers are killed in the deadliest single attack on the army since the war began.

— The European Union pushes for Palestinian statehood, rejecting Israeli leader’s insistence that it’s off the table.

— U.S. and British militaries launch a new round of joint strikes against multiple Houthi sites in Yemen.

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— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:

JERUSALEM — Israel’s army says a total of 21 soldiers were killed in an attack in central Gaza, making it the largest single loss of life for the military since the war began.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, made the announcement Tuesday, updating an earlier toll. He said the soldiers were preparing explosives to demolish two buildings on Monday when a militant fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a tank nearby, setting off the explosion prematurely. The buildings collapsed on the soldiers.

The heavy death toll could add new momentum to calls for Israel to pause the offensive or even halt it altogether. Large numbers of Israeli casualties have put pressure on Israel’s government to halt past military operations.

CAIRO — Egypt has warned Israel that any attempt to seize security control of the strip of land that separates Gaza and Egypt will result in a “serious threat” to relations between the neighboring countries.

The Philadelphi corridor is a 14-kilometer (nine-mile) -long slither of land that separates Egypt from Gaza.

“It must be strictly emphasized that any Israeli move in this direction will lead to a serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt’s State Information Service, said in an online statement Monday.

Israeli leaders have talked about taking control of the corridor to prevent possible weapons smuggling into Gaza.

Egypt fears that a military operation on the border could push large numbers of Palestinians into its territory.

Rashwan said Gaza’s western border was secure and that Israeli claims that weapons were being smuggled from Egypt into Gaza were false. The war has greatly tested relations between Israel and Egypt.

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Troop deployments on either side of the Egypt-Gaza border are regulated in bilateral agreements between Israel and Egypt.

The two countries have maintained diplomatic ties since 1980, with Egypt having brokered a number of cease-fire deals during recent conflicts in Gaza.

Throughout the current war, Egypt has accused Israel of plotting to nullify Palestinian demands for statehood by driving Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt. Israel denies this is part of its plan.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand announced Tuesday it was sending a six-member team to join an international maritime security coalition in the Red Sea.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the country’s defense personnel will contribute to protecting ships in the Middle East from operational headquarters in the region and elsewhere.

“Houthi attacks against commercial and naval shipping are illegal, unacceptable and profoundly destabilizing,” Luxon said in a written statement Tuesday.

The deployment is mandated to conclude no later than July 31.

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