Gaza war: Netanyahu vows to continue bombardment following deaths of 24 Israeli soldiers

IDF lays siege to Khan Younis in southern Gaza, blockading hospitals and preventing personnel from reaching dead and wounded

In the worst incident for Israel since the ground operation in Gaza began, 21 reservist soldiers were killed about 600 metres from the border fence in central Gaza on Monday.

Ninteen of the soldiers were killed when two booby-trapped buildings collapsed after being hit by militant rocket fire. Troops were wiring the buildings to blow them up to prevent the possibility of cross-border militant fire after Israeli forces leave Gaza. A rocket-propelled grenade fired by Hamas triggered the explosives the troops were using, bringing the buildings down on top of them. Another rocket-propelled grenade hit a nearby tank, killing two more soldiers.

Three soldiers were killed in a separate incident in Gaza on Monday, making a total of 24 soldiers killed in a single day.

Search-and-rescue teams and firefighters worked into the night to locate and rescue the trapped soldiers and to extricate the wounded.


Brig Gen Dedi Simhi, a former national fire and rescue authority inspector general, said the buildings were almost entirely destroyed. “A building that collapses as a result of a lot of explosives blowing up, as happened here, is not like being hit by a 20-kilogram rocket. It’s much more complicated than that.”

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu referred to the incident as one of the toughest days since the start of the war but vowed to press ahead with the military campaign.

“I hurt for our soldiers who died. The army has started to investigate the disaster. We must learn lessons and do everything to secure the lives of our soldiers,” he said. “In their name, and for our own lives, we will not stop fighting until total victory.”

On the ground, the army announced that it completed laying siege to the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where fierce clashes continue, some close to the city’s hospitals.

The advancing Israeli troops have blockaded hospitals, which Palestinian officials say makes it impossible to retrieve the dead and rescue the wounded. At Khan Younis’s main Nasser hospital, the biggest still functioning in the Gaza Strip, bodies were being buried on the grounds because it was unsafe to go out to the cemetery. Footage filmed by Palestinian journalist Hamdan El-Dahdouh showed persistent gunfire hitting the top of the main building.

Another Khan Younis hospital, Al-Khair, was stormed by Israeli troops who arrested staff, according to Palestinian officials. Al-Amal Hospital was unreachable; the Red Crescent, which runs it, said a tank shell had hit its fourth-floor headquarters there, a civilian had been killed at the entrance and Israelis were firing from drones on anyone who moved nearby, making it impossible to dispatch ambulances.

Israel says Hamas fighters operate in and around hospitals, which hospital staff and Hamas deny.

Thousands continue to flee the fighting as Israel urged residents to head west to the al-Mawasi area along the Mediterranean coast.

More than 25,500 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 240 kidnapped to Gaza when militants stormed across the border on October 7th.

UNRWA, the UN refugee agency, said that more than 570,000 people in Gaza face “catastrophic” levels of hunger. The agency called for a “critical increase” to humanitarian access to combat the growing risk of famine.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said the “clear and repeated rejection of the two-State solution at the highest levels of the Israeli government is unacceptable” as he appealed for more aid access throughout the Gaza Strip.

“The entire population of Gaza is enduring destruction at a scale and speed without parallel in recent history,” Mr Guterres told the UN Security Council. “Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

He told the council that the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave was “appalling” and that “the people of Gaza not only risk being killed or injured by relentless bombardments, they also run a growing chance of contracting infectious diseases like hepatitis A, dysentery, cholera.”

Mr Guterres again appealed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire

Qatar has said that despite the clashes in Khan Younis and the killing of 21 Israeli soldiers, mediation efforts for a hostage release and ceasefire deal continue.

Egyptian sources reported on Tuesday that Hamas rejected an Israeli proposal for a two-month ceasefire with a full hostage release in exchange for the freeing of Palestinian prisoners and Hamas leaders in Gaza agreeing to go into exile.

According to the Israeli draft, women, children, chronically ill and other civilian hostages would be released in the first stage.

The main sticking point remains the Hamas demand for a complete end to the war. Hamas leaders are also refusing to leave Gaza.

On the northern border, Hizbullah rockets hit an Israeli air force radar base at mount Meron in what it described as a revenge attack for recent assassinations carried out by Israel in Syria and Lebanon. Israel reported slight damage to the facility.

– Additional reporting: Reuters

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem