Correspondent in Jerusalem
Fighting rages in the Gaza Strip and Israeli soldiers are paying a high price. On Monday, a missile attack claimed the lives of 21 of them, all reservists mobilized since the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7. The same day, three other soldiers fell in fighting in Khan Younes. This is the heaviest death toll since the start of the war. It brings to 219 the number of Israeli soldiers killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.
It was Vice Admiral Daniel Hagari, the spokesperson for the Israeli army, who acknowledged this “difficult incident” during a press conference held Tuesday morning. The attack, he explained, took place in the border area of the Gaza Strip, slightly north of Khan Younes. In this so-called “central” area of Palestinian territory, units of the Israeli army have the task of identifying and destroying the tunnels dug by Hamas. It is an extremely dangerous mission during which soldiers are constantly confronted with all kinds of threats.
Israeli soldiers assigned to this mission and operating in this area told Le Figaro, on condition of anonymity, that Palestinian militiamen trap their tunnels, place improvised explosive devices in the streets, use civilians as human shields and can, at at any time, emerge from a concealed trapdoor from which they shoot before discarding their weapon to resume the appearance of civilians. “Our forces were destroying terrorist infrastructure in the area,” said Daniel Hagari, “about 600 meters from the border. »
The officer then explained that, around 4 a.m., “a terrorist fired a missile launcher towards a tank which was protecting the troops. At the same time, an explosion collapsed a two-story building in which most of our soldiers were located. » According to him, the Israeli soldiers were preparing to demolish this building and it was their explosives that went off. “We are still reviewing and investigating the details of this incident,” continued Daniel Hagari, recalling that “these dedicated reservists” died “so that we could all live here safely.” » Late Tuesday morning, the Israeli army released a short video shot overnight, in which an officer can be seen standing in front of a mechanical excavator in the rubble explaining how rescue units were searching for the victims. body of soldiers.
This heavy toll comes as the Israeli army intensifies its operations in Khan Younes. She announces that she has surrounded this large city. Fierce battles take place there. “The army targeted terrorist cells carrying RPGs (missile launchers, editor's note) towards the troops and terrorist agents who had booby-trapped buildings. » Khan Younes, hometown of Yahia Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is presented as a stronghold of the terrorist group. Its basement is riddled with tunnels, according to the Israeli army.
According to the Hamas Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, 25,000 Palestinians have died since the start of the war. The Israeli army claims to have killed 9,000 Hamas fighters. In the morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement in which he deplored “one of the most difficult days since the start of the war. » “In the name of our heroes,” this press release concludes, “we will continue to fight until final victory. » The question is to what extent Israelis will be willing to pay blood money.