Israeli Soldiers Killed in Gaza, DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZETTA — According to the military, Palestinian terrorists carried out one of the deadliest single attacks on Israeli soldiers since the Gaza invasion began, killing at least nine in an urban ambush, demonstrating Hamas’s steadfast resistance despite more than two months of deadly shelling.
The attack in a densely populated area comes after the Israeli military claimed recently that it had shattered Hamas’ command structure in northern Gaza, encircled residual pockets of terrorists, killed thousands of militants, and imprisoned hundreds more.
9 Israeli Soldiers Killed in Gaza City Ambush in Sign Hamas Resistance Still Strong
The relentless battle highlights how distant Israel looks to be from achieving its goal of eradicating Hamas — even after unleashing one of the most damaging onslaughts of the twenty-first century. According to Gaza’s health officials, Israel’s air and ground assault has killed almost 18,600 Palestinians. Gaza City and its environs have been razed to the ground. Almost 1.9 million individuals have been displaced from their homes.
The humanitarian crisis that has resulted has drawn international outrage. The US has frequently urged Israel to take extra precautions to protect civilians, yet blocking UN calls for a cease-fire and rushing military aid to its close friend.
More than six weeks after entering Gaza’s north in response to the terrorists’ Oct. 7 offensive, Israeli troops are still engaged in heavy fighting with Palestinian fighters in and around Gaza City.
Clashes erupted in numerous neighbourhoods overnight and into Wednesday, with particularly violent fighting in Shijaiyah, a congested neighbourhood that was the site of a significant battle during Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas.
“It’s terrifying. We couldn’t sleep,” Mustafa Abu Taha, a Palestinian farm labourer who lives in the neighbourhood, said over the phone. “The situation is getting worse, and we don’t have a safe place to go.”
The ambush occurred Tuesday in Shijaiyah, where Israeli troops searching for a cluster of structures lost contact with four soldiers who had come under fire, according to the IDF. When the other soldiers launched a rescue attempt, they were ambushed with heavy gunfire and explosives.
Col. Itzhak Ben Basat, 44, the most senior officer slain in the ground operation, and Lt. Col. Tomer Grinberg, a battalion commander, were among the nine killed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that it had been a “very difficult day,” but he rejected international calls for a cease-fire.
“There is no doubt that we will continue until the end.” Even with the immense agony and international pressure, I say this. Nothing will deter us; we will fight until the bitter end, till triumph, nothing less,” he stated during a meeting with military commanders.
TROUBLE IN THE SOUTH
Heavy rains overnight flooded tent camps in Gaza’s south, where Israel has encouraged civilians to seek sanctuary, even though that region is also under constant shelling.
The storm brought frigid winds and flooded a refuge area behind a hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah, sending torrents of water flowing amongst the tents. “The situation is catastrophic,” said Ibrahim Arafat, a Shijaiyah resident and father of 13 children.
Because of the fighting and Israel’s siege of Gaza, the health care system and humanitarian relief operations in significant portions of the territory have collapsed, and aid workers have warned of malnutrition and disease spread among displaced people.
Israel invaded southern Gaza over two weeks ago, and fierce fighting has continued in the city of Khan Younis, Israel’s primary target. According to relatives and hospital records, Israeli attacks overnight damaged two residential buildings in and around the city, killing three children, two women, and an old man.
According to medical records, a strike in the southern city of Rafah on Wednesday evening killed 19 persons from two families.
Individual strikes are rarely discussed by the Israeli military. Israel claims it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians and blames the high toll on Hamas, which hides fighters, tunnels, and weapons in residential areas.
DISTANT WAR GOALS
Anger at the war’s toll appears to have boosted Palestinian support for Hamas, which has administered Gaza since 2007 and claims to be resisting Israeli occupation.
According to a study done by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, 44% of respondents in the occupied West Bank backed Hamas, up from 12% in September. The militants had 42% support in Gaza, up from 38% three months ago.
Despite Hamas’ support, the poll found overwhelming opposition to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with over 90% saying he must quit. Many Palestinians regard the administration of the elderly leader as corrupt, authoritarian, and ineffectual.
These results raise doubts about Israel’s claimed objective of destroying Hamas’ military and political capacity and portend further challenges for the American administration’s postwar vision for Gaza.
In addition to governing portions of the West Bank, which Hamas took over in 2007, the United States wants Abbas’ internationally recognised Palestinian Authority to also rule Gaza. Also, it seeks to bring the long-stalled peace talks on the establishment of a Palestinian state back to life. The Palestinians want their state, but Netanyahu’s administration is not having it.
Ismail Haniyeh, the supreme leader of Hamas, warned late Wednesday that any plans for Gaza that do not include Hamas are an “illusion and mirage,” though he did say the party is open to a cease-fire. He said Hamas had struck Israel a “resounding blow” in an interview with Al-Masira TV, a programme affiliated with Yemen’s Houthi terrorist group. Haniyeh is in exile in Qatar, but it is unclear where he was at the time he made those remarks.
US President Joe Biden reminded Netanyahu on Tuesday that Israel was losing international support due to its “indiscriminate bombing.”
“Israel doesn’t seem to be anywhere near achieving its military objective,” wrote Mairav Zonszein, a senior Israel analyst with the International Crisis Group, on X, referring to Tuesday’s tragic ambush.
“With Biden already signalling a loss of patience, with no signs of a hostage release and Israel’s economy overstretched, and with a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions in Gaza, Israel could find itself in a much worse position the day after, with a lot of losses and no win,” she said in a statement.
While the Israeli population tends to support the fight against Hamas, that view may alter if the number of Israeli soldiers killed continues to climb.
Soldier deaths are a sensitive subject in Israel, a small country of 9 million people where military duty is mandatory for most Jews. Almost every family knows a relative, friend, or coworker who has lost a family member in the line of duty. The names of slain soldiers are read aloud at the beginning of national newscasts.
In Israel, attention is still focused on the horrors committed on Oct. 7, when around 1,200 people were slaughtered, the majority of whom were civilians, and approximately 240 people were held hostage, approximately half of whom remain in captivity. According to the military, 115 soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive.
Even as international outrage has grown, there has been little media coverage or public discussion of the plight of civilians in Gaza.
Despite US calls to reduce civilian casualties, the toll has risen at an alarming rate.
The Gaza Health Ministry did not specify the number of women and juveniles killed when it issued the latest death toll of 18,600, although they have regularly made up roughly two-thirds of the fatalities. The death toll is expected to be higher because many are estimated to remain buried beneath the wreckage. The tally by the ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.
Jeffery contributed reporting from Cairo, and Lidman from Tel Aviv, Israel. Najib Jobain in Rafah, Gaza Strip, and Samy Magdy in Cairo provided reporting.