Three soldiers killed in Gaza as troops keep up raids on Hamas sites and gunmen

14 other soldiers wounded by blast in booby-trapped building in Khan Younis; rare long-range rocket barrage fired toward Beersheba area, causing no damage

L-R: Sgt. Dolev Malka, Sgt. Afik Tery and Sgt. Inon Yitzhak, killed in the southern Gaza Strip on March 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
L-R: Sgt. Dolev Malka, Sgt. Afik Tery and Sgt. Inon Yitzhak, killed in the southern Gaza Strip on March 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military announced the deaths of three soldiers in the Gaza Strip Saturday, as troops continued to score achievements in the nearly five-months-long war against the Hamas terror group, and as a rare barrage of rockets was launched from the enclave toward Beersheba.

At least four long-range rockets were fired from the Strip at the Hatzerim region near Beersheba, according to the IDF. The rockets all apparently struck open areas, causing no injuries. Rocket barrages, certainly long-range ones, have become uncommon as the war has progressed, with terrorists’ launching capabilities severely hindered by the offensive.

The Israel Defense Forces said three soldiers were killed during fighting in southern Gaza, raising the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 245. They were named as:

  • Sgt. Dolev Malka, 19, of the Bislamach Brigade’s 450th Battalion, from Shlomi.
  • Sgt. Afik Tery, 19, of the Bislamach Brigade’s 450th Battalion, from Rehovot.
  • Sgt. Inon Yitzhak, 19, of the Bislamach Brigade’s 450th Battalion, from Mitzpe Ramon.

Malka, Tery and Yitzhak were killed and 14 other troops were wounded, six of them seriously, as a result of a blast in a booby-trapped building in the Khan Younis area.

IDF soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released March 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The troops had raided a two-story structure that was booby-trapped with explosive devices both inside and outside the building, according to an initial IDF probe. The force that entered the building was hit by two explosive devices, leading to two soldiers becoming trapped inside.

The Air Force’s search and rescue Unit 669 was dispatched to the scene, but ultimately the evacuation of the wounded troops was carried out by the Bislamach Brigade’s medical evacuation team.

According to the IDF’s probe, several Hamas operatives were killed by troops in the area during the incident.

The 98th Division is investigating the manner in which the troops scanned the building, the manner in which the explosives were planted and other circumstances surrounding the deadly incident.

The Bislamach Brigade — the IDF’s School for Infantry Corps Professions and Squad Commanders in wartime — entered Gaza on Thursday to replace the Paratroopers Brigade, which was withdrawn after three straight months of fighting in Khan Younis.

The three slain soldiers, formerly of the Kfir Brigade’s Nahshon Battalion, were in a squad commander’s course.

Offensive ongoing

The army also said it struck an area in northern Gaza from which rockets were fired toward southern Israel Friday night, within minutes of the attack. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, which set off sirens in Zikim and Ashkelon’s southern industrial zone. Several more targets in the area, including rocket launchers and Hamas infrastructure, were also struck, the IDF said.

Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP/Mahmoud Essa)

Meanwhile, in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the IDF said the 7th Armored Brigade killed several Hamas operatives and captured weapons over the past day. The brigade also directed several airstrikes which the IDF said killed at least eight gunmen.

In central Gaza, the IDF said the Nahal Brigade had killed some 20 gunmen over the past day, including by calling in airstrikes, and the Ghost Unit killed several more operatives using “innovative means.”

Nearby, in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, the IDF said the 215th Artillery Regiment directed an airstrike against a three-man Hamas cell, and infrastructure used to launch rockets at Sderot on Thursday.

The army also said it carried out a strike against a group of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives who were gathered at a Hamas site in southern Gaza’s Rafah. It added that no damage was caused to a hospital close to the targeted site.

IDF soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released March 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 11 people were killed and dozens wounded in the strike. The ministry claimed that a paramedic was among those killed.

The military also released new footage of the Commando Brigade operating in Khan Younis. The brigade is battling Hamas in the western part of the city, killing dozens of operatives and raiding terrorist sites, the IDF said. It said the Egoz commando unit raided a compound previously used by Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, where they found an assault rifle. At another site, troops found a cache of Hamas military equipment.

Troops of the Commando Brigade’s training base have also joined the fighting in Khan Younis in recent weeks, killing dozens of operatives during raids on Hamas sites.

Humanitarian efforts amid truce talks

Also Saturday, the United States carried out the first of what it said would be a series of humanitarian airdrops of food into Gaza, as aid agencies warned of a growing humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave in the absence of a ceasefire deal.

Three C-130 US military planes delivered more than 38,000 meals into a territory where the United Nations says at least 576,000 people are one step away from famine conditions. Palestinians posted videos on social media showing boxes of aid being dropped. Jordanian forces also participated in the operation.

The White House has said the airdrops would be a sustained effort, and that Israel supports them. Critics say airdrops are far less effective than aid deliveries by truck, and it is nearly impossible to ensure supplies do not end up with the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza.

A US Air Force cargo plane heads for an airdrop of aid over Gaza, March 2, 2024. (US Central Command photo)

With indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on a hostage release and truce deal set to resume in Egypt on Sunday, a senior US official said the framework for a deal on a six-week ceasefire was in place, with Israel’s agreement, and depended on Hamas agreeing to release hostages.

“The hostages have to be released,” the official told reporters. “The deal is basically there. But I don’t want to create expectations one way or the other.”

US President Joe Biden has said he hopes a ceasefire will be in place by the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on March 10. But both Israeli and Hamas officials have signaled significant gaps between the sides remain.

International pressure for a ceasefire has grown.

Three people searching for food in farmland in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday were killed by Israeli strikes, residents and medics said. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but says it only targets terror operatives, who regularly operate from within the civilian population.

Thirteen children have died at the Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza in the last three days from dehydration and malnutrition, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Doctors at the hospital said more were at risk of dying. “When a child is supposed to eat three meals a day and he only eats one, he obviously suffers from malnutrition, and all the diseases that come because of it,” said Imad Dardonah.

Palestinians look for salvageable items amid tents and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024, as battles continue between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Biden announced plans for the US airdrop on Friday, a day after the deaths of Palestinians queuing for aid drew renewed attention to the humanitarian catastrophe.

Hamas has said 118 people were killed, attributing the deaths to Israeli fire and calling it a massacre. Israel disputed those figures and said most victims were trampled or run over in the rush to grab food from the trucks, and that its troops only fired at a few individuals who rushed toward them in a threatening manner.

The Israeli military on Saturday promised “an exhaustive, truthful investigation” into the incident, which underscored the collapse of orderly aid deliveries into areas of Gaza held by Israeli forces.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel would present its findings from Thursday’s deadly incident. “We are investigating this incident, we have all the footage we need to complete an exhaustive investigation and find out the truth of the facts of this incident, and we will present the findings,” Hagari said in an evening press conference.

“This was a humanitarian operation we conducted, and the claim that we intentionally struck the convoy and intentionally harmed people is baseless,” he added.

The war in Gaza began with Hamas’s massacres in southern Israel on October 7, when thousands of terrorists broke through the border, killed some 1,200 people and abducted 253 others to Gaza while committing mass atrocities.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Saturday that at least 30,320 Palestinians had been killed and 71,533 had been wounded in the war. The terror group’s figures are unverified, don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, and list all the fatalities as caused by Israel — even those believed to have been caused by hundreds of misfired rockets or otherwise by Palestinian fire.

Israel has said it killed some 13,000 Hamas members in Gaza fighting, in addition to some 1,000 killed in Israel during the terror group’s October 7 invasion and onslaught.

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