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War on Gaza: 21 Israeli soldiers killed by Hamas attack

Massive explosion brings building down on Israelis after RPG fired at nearby tank, Israel's military says, meanwhile Israeli forces encircle Khan Younis
An Israeli army tank rolls in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas (AFP)
An Israeli army tank rolls in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas (AFP)

Israel's military said on Tuesday that at least 21 of its soldiers were killed in a single attack in the Gaza Strip, the deadliest day for Israeli troops since 7 October.

Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said the soldiers were killed in central Gaza on Monday when a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Hamas hit a tank near two buildings the soldiers were in.

The attack came as the Israeli military said it had killed “dozens” of Palestinian fighters over the past 24 hours, saying its forces had encircled Khan Younis. They added that soldiers engaged in close-quarter combat and direct air strikes. 

Hagari added that the Israeli soldiers were probably killed as a result of mines that Israeli forces had placed there to demolish the buildings.

This is the highest daily death toll for Israeli troops since the start of the Gaza ground offensive in late October, and comes as pressure mounds on the government about the length, aim and cost of the war.

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Benny Gantz, a member of Israel's war cabinet, said the country must remain united in the wake of Monday’s high death toll.

“On this difficult morning, we must be united, remember the heavy price we are forced to pay for such a just war and the lofty goal for which our heroes fell,” said Gantz.

The Israeli military alleged that the troops were attempting to destroy a structure used by Hamas as a part of an effort to establish a buffer zone when an RPG hit a tank meant to be securing the area.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir declared that the deaths make it “clearer than ever” that Israel must not de-escalate operations in Gaza.

The latest death toll brings the number of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza to 219 since ground operations began in late October.

Israeli forces encircle Khan Younis

On Tuesday, Israeli forces also ramped up attacks on the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) headquarters in Gaza, wounding several staff members and endangering thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering in the area. 

“The situation remains extremely dangerous. There has been a significant escalation since yesterday of attacks on PRCS in El Amal Hospital,” Nebal Farsakh, a staff member for PRCS, told Al Jazeera.

The al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis also came under Israeli siege on Tuesday, with bombardment in the hospital’s vicinity making it difficult for wounded patients to receive treatment. 

War on Gaza: Israel attacks shelters and homes in Khan Younis, killing dozens
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Meanwhile, Israeli forces killed and wounded several Palestinians in an attack on a car in which the passengers were waving white flags as they attempted to flee Khan Younis.

The attacks came amidst another telecommunications blackout in Gaza, according to internet watchdog NetBlocks. 

“The incident is likely to severely limit most residents’ ability to communicate, in the tenth such incident since the start of the war,” Netblocks said in a post on X.

At least 25,295 Palestinian people - mainly women and children - have been killed by Israel since its military operations started on 7 October, after a Hamas assault left 1,140 people dead.

Since 9 October, Gaza has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis, as Israel cut off all water, fuel, electricity and food supplies for the strip.

Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said on Tuesday that all children under the age of five in Gaza are not getting enough nutrition and are at risk of permanent physical and cognitive impairment.

“We’ve never seen 2.2 million civilians made to go hungry within weeks. We have never seen this degree of hunger used as a weapon so quickly and so completely, ever,” he said.

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