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8 Israeli soldiers, 19 Palestinians killed in fighting in southern Gaza


The father of Mohammad al-Habil weeps with his relatives after his son was killed with his uncle, Abdul Muti al-Habil, in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, June 14, 2024.
The father of Mohammad al-Habil weeps with his relatives after his son was killed with his uncle, Abdul Muti al-Habil, in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, June 14, 2024.

Eight Israeli soldiers were killed Saturday in an explosion in southern Gaza as they traveled in their armored vehicle. Meanwhile, Israeli forces continue to press in and around Gaza's southern city of Rafah, killing at least 19 Palestinians.

The eight soldiers "fell during operational activity in southern Gaza," the military said in a statement. "Their families have been notified," the military said.

The early morning explosion occurred near Rafah and was caused by either a Hamas-placed explosive or anti-tank missile, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman said.

Saturday's losses were among the heaviest in one day for the Israeli military and brings the total of its casualties to at least 306 since the beginning of Israel's full-scale ground offensive in Gaza on October 27.

Since Hamas launched a terror attack October 7 on Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking roughly 250 hostages, Israel has embarked on an offensive to eliminate Hamas from Gaza. In recent weeks, Israel says its forces have killed at least 30,000 people, the majority of them combatants. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says 37,296 people have died, most of them women and children, but does not estimate how many of the dead were combatants.

The Israeli military said Saturday its soldiers seized large quantities of weapons in Rafah, both above ground and in an extensive underground tunnel network built by Hamas. It also said Hamas militants had fired rockets from the humanitarian area in central Gaza on Friday.

"This is a further example of the cynical exploitation of humanitarian infrastructure and the civilian population as human shields by terror organizations in the Gaza Strip for their terrorist attacks," the military said.

A cease-fire agreement that would stop the fighting and trade Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners appears distant.

A spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad armed wing, Al-Quds Brigades, a Hamas ally, said Saturday in a video posted on Telegram that Israel would get its hostages back from Gaza only if it ended the war and withdrew its forces from the enclave.

Later Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video of his own, saying the only way to free the hostages is to defeat Hamas.

Mediators for Qatar and Egypt plan to engage Hamas militants soon to see if there is a way to push ahead with a Gaza cease-fire proposal offered by U.S. President Joe Biden, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Saturday.

Sullivan spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, in the north, residents in the Gaza City suburbs said at least 15 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes on two houses while four others were killed in separate attacks in the south, according to medics.

West Bank violence

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli troops killed a Palestinian teenager in the northern West Bank town of Beit Furik on Saturday. The teen was killed by Israeli fire, according to a statement by the Palestinian health ministry posted on Facebook. An Israeli army official confirmed that troops opened fire during a raid in the occupied West Bank territories.

Two other Palestinians were injured when Israeli forces stormed the town, east of Nablus, "firing live bullets at local residents" according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.

"Hits were identified," an Israeli military official told AFP without elaborating. He said that troops were operating in the Nablus area when "dozens of suspects hurled rocks at Israeli security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means and live fire."

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen an increase in violence since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza was triggered on October 7.

At least 546 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers in the territory since the war broke out, according to Palestinian officials.

At least 14 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attacks in the West Bank over the same period, according to Agence France-Presse.

Humanitarian crisis continues

The World Food Program said the toll of the war on civilians in Gaza is "devastating."

It has become "close to impossible to deliver the level of aid that meets the growing demands on the ground," the U.N. agency's deputy executive director Carl Skau said Friday.

The World Health Organization has said more than 8,000 children younger than 5 have been treated for acute malnutrition in the enclave.

Supplies of food to southern Gaza are dwindling since Israel extended its military operations to Rafah and those displaced by the offensive there face a public health crisis, Skau said.

The main corridor for aid earlier in the eight-month-old war was from Egypt into southern Gaza. But this was largely cut off in early May when Israel expanded its campaign in the city of Rafah, where much of Gaza's population was sheltering.

Palestinian children play in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, June 10, 2024.
Palestinian children play in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, June 10, 2024.

Israel's military operation in Rafah has generated a displacement crisis as many of those who had taken refuge there fled again northward and toward an evacuation zone in Al-Mawasi, an area on the coast.

"A million or so people who have been pushed out of Rafah are now really crammed into a small space along the beach," Skau said.

"It's hot, the sanitation situation is just terrible. We were driving through rivers of sewage. And it's a public health crisis in the making."

Distribution of aid has been hampered by military operations, delayed Israeli authorizations and increasing lawlessness within Gaza.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press.