ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

search
Netanyahu: We bow our heads and continue to complete victory

In deadliest incident of Gaza combat, 21 soldiers killed as buildings collapse in blast

Explosion possibly caused by Palestinian RPG attack as IDF prepared structures for demolition using explosives, with nearby tank hit by a missile; death toll in ground op reaches 219

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Soldiers killed in the central Gaza Strip on January 22, 2024: Top (L-R): Sgt. Maj. (res.) Mark Kononovich, Sgt. First Class (res.) Israel Socol, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Adam Bismut, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Shay Biton Hayun, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Itamar Tal, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Kasau Zegeye, Sgt. First Class (res.) Cedrick Garin; middle: Sgt. First Class (res.) Hadar Kapeluk, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan Lazar, Cpt. (res.) Ariel Mordechay Wollfstal, Master Sgt. (res.), Elkana Vizel, Cpt. (res.) Nir Binyamin, Sgt. First Class (res.) Sagi Idan, Sgt. First Class (res.) Ahmad Abu Latif; bottom: Sgt. Maj. (res.) Rafael Elias Mosheyoff, Sgt. First Class (res.) Nicholas Berger, Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi, Sgt. First Class (res.) Yuval Lopez, Sgt. First Class (res.) Elkana Yehuda Sfez, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Sergey Gontmaher, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Barak Haim Ben Valid. (Israel Defense Forces, courtesy; combo image: Times of Israel)
Soldiers killed in the central Gaza Strip on January 22, 2024: Top (L-R): Sgt. Maj. (res.) Mark Kononovich, Sgt. First Class (res.) Israel Socol, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Adam Bismut, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Shay Biton Hayun, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Itamar Tal, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Kasau Zegeye, Sgt. First Class (res.) Cedrick Garin; middle: Sgt. First Class (res.) Hadar Kapeluk, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan Lazar, Cpt. (res.) Ariel Mordechay Wollfstal, Master Sgt. (res.), Elkana Vizel, Cpt. (res.) Nir Binyamin, Sgt. First Class (res.) Sagi Idan, Sgt. First Class (res.) Ahmad Abu Latif; bottom: Sgt. Maj. (res.) Rafael Elias Mosheyoff, Sgt. First Class (res.) Nicholas Berger, Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi, Sgt. First Class (res.) Yuval Lopez, Sgt. First Class (res.) Elkana Yehuda Sfez, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Sergey Gontmaher, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Barak Haim Ben Valid. (Israel Defense Forces, courtesy; combo image: Times of Israel)

Twenty-one Israeli soldiers were killed Monday when they came under attack in the southern Gaza Strip, triggering a blast that collapsed two buildings with soldiers inside them, the military said Tuesday morning.

The buildings were being rigged for demolition by troops when Palestinian gunmen fired an RPG at a tank securing the forces. A second blast then occurred in the buildings, possibly as a result of a second RPG, leading to their collapse.

It was the single deadliest incident since the start of Israel’s ground offensive in the enclave, and raised the military death toll in the operation to 219.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that troops were operating in an area around 600 meters from the border, across from the southern Israeli community of Kissufim. They were destroying structures and Hamas sites as part of the army’s efforts to establish a buffer zone to allow residents of Israeli border communities to return to their homes.

“At around 4 p.m., an RPG was fired by gunmen at a tank securing the forces, and simultaneously, an explosion occurred in two two-story buildings. The buildings collapsed due to this explosion, while most of the forces were inside and near them,” he said.

According to military sources, two of the soldiers were killed by the RPG fire on the tank. Several other soldiers were wounded in the blast, including one in serious condition.

Hagari said the explosion in the buildings was likely a result of mines planted by troops for the purpose of later demolishing the structures, but the cause of the detonation was still under investigation. The buildings may have been hit by a second RPG.

Rescue forces described the scene as reminiscent of the aftermath of an earthquake.

IDF troops seen operating in the Gaza Strip in an image cleared for publication on January 22, 2024. (IDF)

For several hours, a large number of troops from the IDF’s search and rescue units, as well as members of the Israel Fire and Rescue Services, worked to extract the casualties from the collapsed buildings.

The IDF was investigating the circumstances of the incident in order to prevent its recurrence.

By Tuesday afternoon, the IDF named all 21 soldiers killed in the incident, all of them reservists.

They were named as:

  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan Lazar, 32, of the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Haifa.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Hadar Kapeluk, 23, a squad commander in the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Mevo Beitar.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Sergey Gontmaher, 37, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Ramat Gan.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Elkana Yehuda Sfez, 25, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Kiryat Arba.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Yuval Lopez, 27,of the 205th Brigade’s 9206th Battalion, from Alon Shvut.
  • Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi, 29, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Yehud-Monosson.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Nicholas Berger, 22, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Jerusalem.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Cedrick Garin, 23, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Tel Aviv.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Rafael Elias Mosheyoff, 33, of the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Pardes Hanna-Karkur.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Barak Haim Ben Valid, 33, a squad commander in the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Rishon Lezion.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Ahmad Abu Latif, 26, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Rahat.
  • Cpt. (res.) Nir Binyamin, 29, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Givatayim.
  • Master Sgt. (res.) Elkana Vizel, 35, a squad commander in the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Bnei Dakalim.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Israel Socol, 24, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Karnei Shomron.
  • Cpt. (res.) Ariel Mordechay Wollfstal, 28, of the 205th Brigade’s 9206th Battalion, from Elazar.
  • Sgt. First Class (res.) Sagi Idan, 24, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Rosh Haayin.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Mark Kononovich, 35, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Herzliya.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Itamar Tal, 32, of the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Mesilot.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Adam Bismut, 35, a squad commander in the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Karnei Shomron.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Shay Biton Hayun, 40, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Zichron Yaakov.
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Kasau Zegeye, 38, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Yokne’am Illit.

An additional three soldiers were killed in combat Monday as part of a stepped-up assault on the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.

Israel launched the offensive on Gaza after the October 7 Hamas onslaught into southern Israel when terrorists overran military bases, communities and a music festival, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, amid widespread scenes of horrific abuse. The terrorists also took 253 hostages.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and free the hostages. However, three months in, the offensive has not yet achieved those goals and pressure has mounted within Israel to reach a deal with the terror group for the return of 136 people still held in Gaza — not all of them alive. International pressure has also intensified to bring the war to an end, amid the mounting Palestinian toll and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The Hamas-run health ministry said Monday that 25,295 Gazans had been killed so far in the war, an unverified figure that includes Hamas operatives as well as those killed in failed Palestinian rocket launches. The IDF says it has killed more than 9,000 Hamas members since launching the offensive. A further 1,000 were killed in Israel on October 7.

Troops of the Kfir Brigade operate in the Gaza Strip, in an undated photo published by the IDF on January 22, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has intensified its military campaign in southern Gaza in recent days, focused on the city of Khan Younis.

Four brigades, led by the 98th Division, are taking part in the offensive, which began Sunday with a series of airstrikes on Hamas sites in the area and has continued with intensive gun battles that the IDF says have killed dozens of gunmen.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday the heavy losses suffered by the military only underlined the necessity to push on.

“Our hearts are with the dear families in their most difficult time,” Gallant wrote of the “difficult and painful morning.”

But, he said, “this is a war that will determine the future of Israel for decades to come – the fall of the soldiers compels us to achieve the goals of the fighting.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he mourned the deaths and wished to “strengthen the dear families of our heroic warriors who fell on the battlefield. I know that for these families, their lives will be changed forever.”

Friends and family members mourn during the funeral of IDF soldier Hadar Kapeluk in the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on January 23, 2024, a day after he was killed in combat in the Gaza Strip (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Israel will “will not stop fighting until absolute victory,” he said.

“The IDF has launched an investigation into the disaster. We must learn the necessary lessons and do everything to preserve the lives of our warriors,” he continued.

The war cabinet meets with heads of Israeli northern municipalities in Korazim, January 23, 2024 (Haim Zach / GPO)

Later, in a joint video statement, that also included war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, the leaders pledged that the war will continue at full strength despite the loss of 24 soldiers Monday.

“We bow our heads in memory of our fallen, and yet we do not for a moment stop striving for an irreplaceable goal – the achievement of complete victory,” said Netanyahu.

“We continue at this time in the spirit of the fallen,” added Gallant.

“We will do it together, we will do it in unity. I ask to strengthen the bereaved families, to know that we have to continue. I have no doubt that when they set out on their mission yesterday, they intended for us to continue, and that is what we will do,” Gantz said.

Many family members of the 136 remaining hostages held by Hamas, organizing through the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, have grown increasingly vocal in their opposition to the government’s strategy, saying the continued fighting is putting their loved ones at risk.

Relatives and supporters of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas attend a protest calling for their release outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. Hebrew on the hands with fake blood reads, “Time is running out”. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

On Sunday evening, the families rallied outside Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem to demand he reach a deal for the hostages’ release. On Monday, relatives of hostages crashed a session of the Knesset’s Finance Committee, bearing signs that read “You will not sit here while they die there.”

Two hundred and fifty-three people, including children and the elderly, were abducted by Hamas on October 7. In late November, 105 hostages were released during a two-week “humanitarian ceasefire” mediated by the US and Qatar, and several were previously recovered in other circumstances, but talks of a further deal have languished since that ceasefire collapsed.

International pressure has also mounted with much of Gaza’s population displaced and a rising death toll.

Palestinians who fled from Khan Younis from Israeli ground and air offensive on the Gaza Strip arrive in Rafah, southern Gaza, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

On Monday it was reported that Israel has submitted a proposal through Qatari and Egyptian mediators that would see it agree to pause its military offensive against Hamas for as long as two months, in exchange for a phased release of the remaining hostages.

The proposal does not heed the Hamas demand for Israel to end the war completely, but does appear to go further than previous Israeli offers, according to the Axios news site, which cited two Israeli officials.

The offer was publicized as White House Middle East czar Brett McGurk was in the region for meetings with Egyptian and Qatari counterparts aimed at advancing a hostage deal, a US official told The Times of Israel.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
image
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: example@domain.com
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.