Three soldiers from same unit killed in Gaza, bringing ground op toll to 164

IDF announces deaths of Lt. Yaron Eliezer Chitiz, 23, Staff Sgt. Itay Buton, 20, and Staff Sgt. Efraim Jackman, 21, all of the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion

L to R: Lt. Yaron Eliezer Chitiz; Staff Sgt. Itay Buton; Staff Sgt. Efraim Jackman (IDF)
L to R: Lt. Yaron Eliezer Chitiz; Staff Sgt. Itay Buton; Staff Sgt. Efraim Jackman (IDF)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday announced the deaths of three soldiers in fighting in the northern Gaza Strip the previous day, bringing the Israeli death toll in the ongoing ground operation in the Strip to 164.

  • Lt. Yaron Eliezer Chitiz, 23, a deputy company commander in the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion, from Ra’anana.
  • Staff Sgt. Itay Buton, 20, of the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion, from Petah Tikva.
  • Staff Sgt. Efraim Jackman, 21, of the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion, from Neve Daniel.

Jackman studied at a yeshiva in the southern town of Yeruham and is the eighth student of that institution to have been killed since the war started.

The IDF, meanwhile, released an update on some of the close-quarters combat that troops experienced over the past day in northern Gaza.

In Gaza City’s Shejaiya — where Hamas’s battalion is believed to be largely defeated — reservists of the Yiftah Brigade identified Hamas operatives running between buildings, from which gunfire was previously directed at troops, the IDF said.

The reservists then called in an airstrike against the Hamas operatives, which the IDF said led to secondary blasts, indicating the area was booby-trapped.

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on December 27, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)

Also in northern Gaza, the IDF said troops of the 261st Brigade (the Bahad 1 officers’ school in wartime) spotted two Hamas operatives entering a vehicle and driving to a building used as a weapons depot.

The troops then called in an airstrike against the operatives, and later a fighter jet struck the building, the IDF said.

In the Gaza City neighborhoods of Daraj and Tuffah, the IDF said troops of the 401st Armored Brigade identified a Hamas operative wielding a short-range anti-tank missile.

Tanks in the area shelled the operative, before he could open fire, the IDF said.

Hamas’s Daraj-Tuffah battalion is believed by the IDF to be the last standing battalion in northern Gaza, as the military shifts most of its focus to the southern and central parts of the Strip.

The IDF said it had carried out strikes from the air, ground, and sea against some 200 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours.

Terrorists, meanwhile, resumed their attacks on Israeli territory. After a lull of some 16 hours, rocket sirens sound in Nahal Oz near the Gaza border. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

The towns close to the border with the enclave have largely been evacuated of civilians since October 7, when Hamas carried out a devastating attack on Israel that killed over 1,200 people, sparking the war. Thousands of terrorists who burst through the border from Gaza in southern Israel also abducted at least 240 people to Gaza as hostages.

Israel responded with a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas, toppling it from power in Gaza and releasing the hostages.

An Israeli air force attack helicopter fires a missile while flying over the northern Gaza Strip near the border with southern Israel on December 27, 2023. (ACK GUEZ / AFP)

A UN human rights official accused Israel of working to push Gazans out of the Strip entirely as it expands its ground operation aimed at toppling Hamas.

Paula Gaviria Betancur, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, issued a statement claiming the IDF is attempting to deport Palestinians from Gaza “en masse.”

“As evacuation orders and military operations continue to expand and civilians are subjected to relentless attacks on a daily basis, the only logical conclusion is that Israel’s military operation in Gaza aims to deport the majority of the civilian population en masse,” Gaviria Betancur wrote.

Israel has denied reports that it sought to push Gazans into Egypt for the duration of the war, and has vowed it is not seeking any permanent population displacement.

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