Hamas kills 8 Israeli soldiers in Gaza battle

TEL AVIV   -   Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in southern Gaza on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces says, in one of the deadliest single incidents involving its troops since October7.

The IDF said the incident was still under review but preliminary findings suggested an armored vehicle carrying soldiers as part of a convoy had been hit by an explosion at around 5.15 a.m. local time during an operation targeting “terrorist infrastructure” in the northwestern part of Tal al-Sultan.

“According to the information we have at this point one of the engineering vehicles in the convoy was involved in an explosion that was apparently caused by explosive devices planted in the area or as a result of anti-tank missile fire,” IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari told a press conference Saturday.

An earlier statement by the IDF suggested that the initial explosion may have been compounded when explosive materiel aboard the vehicle detonated.

“The current assessment is that the ‘Nemera’ armored vehicle got hit as a result of an explosion of a side bomb. In addition, on the vehicle there were engineering tools that include explosive materiel. The explosion was significant and may have been caused by the ignition of the explosive materiel on the vehicle. All this is not supposed to happen and therefore the incident is being examined,” the IDF said.

The Israeli military added the damage had been so great that it was difficult to identify and locate the bodies of those killed.

“Today we received another painful reminder of the price of war and that brave warriors and heroes were willing to sacrifice their lives for the state of Israel, which is the common home of all of us: Druze, Jews, Bedouin, Muslims and Christians. All citizens of Israel, our hearts and thoughts are with the families at this difficult time,” Hagari said at the press conference.

Earlier, Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said it had “carried out a complex ambush against enemy vehicles” operating in Tal al-Sultan, which lies west of the southern city of Rafah.

The militant group said it targeted a military bulldozer, which then caught on fire, killing and wounding the crew. When rescue troops arrived, the militant group then struck an armored personnel carrier, killing the soldiers.

Israel identified one of the dead soldiers as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, Deputy Company Commander in the Engineering Battalion. The other seven names are yet to be disclosed.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech on Saturday, conveyed deep sorrow over the “heartbreaking price” paid in the defense of Israel, describing the enemy as “loathsome and murderous.”

“Despite the heavy and staggering cost, we must stick to the goals of the war: destroying the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas, returning all our abductees, making sure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel and returning our residents safely to their homes – both in the north and in the south,” Netanyahu said.  Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz and national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir also expressed sorrow, saying it had been “a difficult” and “painful” day.

“Eight of our best sons were killed in Rafah,” Katz said in a post on X. “While knowing the price, they bravely entered Gaza to complete the mission of destroying Hamas and freeing the hostages.”

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