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Tuesday, June 25, 2024  
18 Dhul-Hijjah 1445  

Israel says Khan Younis encircled, 24 soldiers killed

At least 195 Palestinians civilians were killed in the previous 24 hours
Friends and family mourn Israeli military reservist Sergeant First Class Hadar Kapeluk, 23 who was killed in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at his funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, January 23, 2024. REUTERS/
Friends and family mourn Israeli military reservist Sergeant First Class Hadar Kapeluk, 23 who was killed in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at his funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, January 23, 2024. REUTERS/

Twenty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in Israel’s worst day of losses in Gaza, the military said on Tuesday, as it claimed to have encircled southern Gaza’s main city in a major ground assault.

Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said 21 soldiers were killed when two buildings they had mined for demolition exploded after Hamas fired at a nearby tank. Earlier, three soldiers were reported killed in a separate attack in southern Gaza.

“Yesterday we experienced one of our most difficult days since the war erupted,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “In the name of our heroes, for the sake of our lives, we will not stop fighting until absolute victory.”

The deaths came amid the heaviest fight of 2024 so far, as the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) stormed remaining parts of Khan Younis, the main city in the south of the enclave sheltering hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians.

“Over the past day, IDF troops carried out an extensive operation during which they encircled Khan Younis and deepened the operation in the area. The area is a significant stronghold of Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade,” the military said.

“Ground troops engaged in close-quarters combat, directed (air) strikes, and used intelligence to coordinate fire, resulting in the elimination of dozens of terrorists,” it added.

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Gazans say the Israeli forces, advancing west across the crowded city towards the Mediterranean coast since Monday, have blockaded and stormed hospitals, leaving the wounded and dead beyond the reach of rescuers.

At least 195 Palestinians were killed in the previous 24 hours, raising the documented toll to 25,490, according to Palestinian health officials, who say thousands more dead are feared lost in the rubble.

Bodies were being buried in the grounds of Khan Younis’s main Nasser hospital because it was unsafe to go to the cemetery.

Another Khan Younis hospital, Al-Khair, was stormed by Israeli troops who arrested staff there, and a third, Al-Amal, run by the Palestinian Red Crescent, was unreachable, according to Palestinian officials.

The Red Crescent said a tank shell had hit its headquarters on Amal’s fourth floor, a civilian had been killed at the entrance, and Israeli forces were firing from drones on anyone who moved nearby, making it impossible to dispatch ambulances for the entire Khan Younis area.

Israel says Hamas fighters operate in and around hospitals, making them legitimate targets. Hospital staff and Hamas deny this.

Since Israel launched its ground assault in October 2023, nearly all Gaza’s 2.3 million people have lost their homes, the vast majority now penned into towns just north and south of Khan Younis, many sleeping rough in makeshift tents, with inadequate food, water or medication.

Though the war still has overwhelming public support in Israel, discontent is emerging with Netanyahu’s strategy-committed to the total annihilation of Hamas but with only vague discussion of what should follow.

Since last week, Netanyahu has publicly vowed never to allow an independent Palestinian state, disavowing the decades-old bedrock of Middle East policy of Israel’s main ally, Washington.

Relatives of hostages still held in Gaza have called for more effort to bring them home, even if that means reining in the military campaign. Some burst into a parliamentary committee hearing on Monday.

Last week, a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, former military chief-of-staff Gadi Eisenkot, whose own soldier son was killed in Gaza last month, said the campaign had yet to dismantle Hamas and there was no hope of freeing the hostages by force. He called for elections to replace a government he said had lost public confidence.

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