Four soldiers killed fighting in southern Gaza as war on Hamas hits six-month mark

Attackers emerge from tunnel, ambush troops, then escape; 604 soldiers killed since start of war on October 7, 260 of them during ground operation; 3,193 injured

From left to right, This combination of photos shows Cpt. Ido Baruch, Sgt. Amitai Even Shoshan, Sgt. Ilai Zair and Sgt. Reef Harush, who the army said were killed fighting against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
From left to right, This combination of photos shows Cpt. Ido Baruch, Sgt. Amitai Even Shoshan, Sgt. Ilai Zair and Sgt. Reef Harush, who the army said were killed fighting against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Sunday the deaths of four soldiers during fighting against the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip the day before.

Their deaths came as the IDF marked six months since the war on Hamas began with the terror group’s massive October attack on Israel.

The four soldiers were named as:

Cpt. Ido Baruch, 21, a commander at the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Tel Mond.

Sgt. Amitai Even Shoshan, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Azri’el.

Sgt. Ilai Zair, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Kedar.

Sgt. Reef Harush, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Kibbutz Ramat David.

Their deaths brought the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 260.

Illustrative: Friends and family attend the funeral of an Israeli soldier killed in the Gaza Strip, at the military cemetery in Modi’in. March 31, 2024. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

The four were killed Saturday when gunmen came out of a tunnel in a destroyed building and opened fire at troops carrying out a patrol along the IDF’s logistics route in Khan Younis, according to an initial military probe. The operatives apparently managed to flee back into the tunnel.

Soldiers who tried to pursue the attackers noticed that the escape route was booby-trapped and therefore held back.

A tank came under RPG fire from another cell in the area, though there were no injuries in that attack. The tank returned fire, killing members of the second cell, according to the IDF’s probe.

Hamas is known to have dug hundreds of kilometers of tunnels under Gaza as part of its military infrastructure.

Also Saturday, two soldiers of the 401st Armored Brigade’s 46th Battalion were seriously wounded in the central Gaza Strip, the IDF said.

The troops were injured in an accident involving a tank shell that exploded inside the vehicle, according to an initial IDF probe.

IDF soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip in an undated handout photo published April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The war erupted on October 7 when Hamas led a cross-border attack killing 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducting 253 people to the Gaza.

Israel responded with a military campaign to topple the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages.

The day after the Hamas assault, Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah began attacks along Israel’s northern border, saying it is acting in support of Gaza. That fighting there has steadily escalated, raising concerns it could boil over into another major war on a second front.

As the country marked half a year of war against Hamas, the IDF published new data Sunday on its operations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Lebanon, from the number of terror operatives killed to the number of sites struck.

A total of 604 soldiers, reservists, and local security officers have been killed and 3,193 have been wounded since October 7. Of them, 260 were killed and 1,552 were wounded during the ground offensive in Gaza.

The IDF also listed 41 soldiers killed due to friendly fire in Gaza and other military-related accidents.

A woman washes pots outside a tent pitched by a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 5, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

According to the data, more than 13,000 Hamas operatives and members of other terror groups have been killed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The Hamas-run health ministry says over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, though the figure cannot be independently verified and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members, including those killed as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF’s data said the military has killed five Hamas brigade commanders and those of equivalent rank, as well as more than 20 battalion commanders. More than 100 Hamas company commanders and operatives with a similar rank have been killed, according to the data.

In Lebanon, the IDF said it has killed more than 330 terror operatives, mostly members of Hezbollah. The number includes 30 commanders in the Iran-backed group, according to the IDF.

Some 32,000 targets have been struck in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war, including more than 3,600 that were discovered as Hamas sites during the fighting.

In Lebanon, around 4,700 Hezbollah positions have been hit, according to the IDF’s data.

Illustrative: A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab shows smoke rising from an Israeli military outpost after a rocket attack by Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, on April 6, 2024. (Kawnat Haju/AFP)

Since the beginning of the war, some 9,100 projectiles fired from Gaza crossed the border into Israel, alongside 3,100 from Lebanon and around 35 from Syria. The figures do not include rockets — said by Israel to be at least in the hundreds — launched by Gazan terror groups that misfired and landed inside the Strip.

The IDF said the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 has interrogated some 4,600 Palestinian suspects in the Gaza Strip, many of whom were arrested and brought to Israel for questioning.

Since October 7, in the West Bank, the IDF said troops have arrested more than 3,700 wanted Palestinians, including more than 1,600 affiliated with Hamas. Another 420 gunmen have been killed by troops in the West Bank, the IDF says.

The IDF said 70 brigade-level raids have been carried out in the West Bank, and 19 homes of Palestinians accused of terrorism have been demolished.

Meanwhile, the fighting in the Gaza Strip brought with it a major humanitarian crisis, with aid supplies, which are usually trucked in, greatly curtailed by the fighting.

International concern has spiraled and mounted pressure on Israel, as the United Nations and aid agencies warn of looming famine in Gaza. The deaths of seven international aid workers in an Israeli strike last week sharpened calls for Israel to do more to enable and protect aid supplies.

File – Humanitarian aid is airdropped to Palestinians over Gaza City, Gaza Strip, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)

A British Royal Navy ship will supply aid to Gaza as part of an international effort to help set up a new humanitarian maritime corridor in early May, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense said Saturday.

The multinational effort, involving the United States, Cyprus, and other partners, will develop a new temporary pier off the coast of Gaza, British Foreign Minister David Cameron said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Saturday the “terrible” war between Israel and Hamas “must end.”

“We continue to stand by Israel’s right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend their security. But the whole of the UK is shocked by the bloodshed,” he said in a statement.

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