Two IDF soldiers killed in Gaza; foreign nations airdrop civilian aid into enclave

Israel says no limit set on truck deliveries to Strip; hostage release negotiations continue in Qatar as families of captives march to Jerusalem

This composite image shows Maj. Iftah Shahar (R) and Cpt. Itai Seif of the Givati Brigade's Tzabar battalion, who were killed fighting in the Gaza Strip on February 27, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
This composite image shows Maj. Iftah Shahar (R) and Cpt. Itai Seif of the Givati Brigade's Tzabar battalion, who were killed fighting in the Gaza Strip on February 27, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Wednesday that two soldiers had been killed in battles against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile mediators from Egypt, Qatar, and the United States continued to strive for a path to a temporary ceasefire and hostage release amid the bitter fighting, with negotiators seeking a six-week pause in the nearly five-month war.

And as a round of negotiations was held in Qatar, families of hostages abducted during Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel begin a march from the Gaza area toward Jerusalem to demand the government agree to a deal for their release.

The IDF announced two officers had been killed fighting Tuesday in northern Gaza, raising the ground toll in the offensive against Hamas to 242.

They were named as Maj. Iftah Shahar, 25, a company commander in the Givati Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion, from Paran, and Cpt. Itai Seif, 24, a platoon commander also in the Givati Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion, from Yeruham.

Shahar had until recently served as an officer in the Israeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit. He had been sent to the infantry unit to replace a seriously wounded Givati company commander.

The IDF said another seven soldiers of the Tzabar Battalion were seriously wounded in the same incident.

Shahar and Seif were killed and the seven other soldiers were injured as a result of an explosion in a booby-trapped building in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood on Tuesday.

As global concerns mount over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where over 2 million people reside, the IDF said it coordinated the airdrop of food and medical supplies by several nations to the southern Gaza Strip over the previous two days.

Some 160 packages of humanitarian aid were airdropped to 17 locations along the southern coastline of the Strip using American, Egyptian, Emirati, French and Jordanian planes, the IDF said.

A Jordanian military aircraft (not pictured) drops humanitarian aid over Rafah and Khan Yunis in the skies of the southern Gaza Strip on February 27, 2024. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Additional packages of food, medical supplies and fuel were also airdropped to a Jordanian field hospital in Khan Younis, the IDF said.

The Jordan News Agency reported that King Abdullah II, who is Supreme Commander of the Jordanian military, participated in an airdrop Tuesday. According to the report, six C130 aircraft flew in from Amman, three of which were from the Royal Jordanian Air Force alongside three others from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and France.

The IDF said the recent airdrops were in addition to trucks of humanitarian aid that enter the Strip daily.

A convoy of 31 trucks carrying food entered the northern Gaza Strip Wednesday, according to the military liaison to the Palestinians, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. COGAT added that close to 50 trucks had traveled to the northern part of the enclave over the past three days, and that “there is no limitation on the amount of humanitarian aid for the civilians in Gaza.”

Northern Gaza is seeing a spiraling humanitarian crisis, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the fighting, and frenzied looting of the few trucks that do enter.

Israel has denied fault for the low numbers of trucks entering the enclave and blamed humanitarian organizations operating inside Gaza, saying hundreds of trucks filled with aid sit idle on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing. The UN, in turn, says it can’t always reach the trucks at the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.

Additionally, Israel has long accused Hamas of appropriating and stealing aid from an increasingly desperate civilian population.

In other operations, the IDF said it killed dozens of Hamas operatives across the Gaza Strip over the previous day, releasing footage of a strike on a gunman who tried to flee after opening fire at troops. The military said it carried out overnight airstrikes on eight “significant targets” in an area from which rockets were fired at Ashkelon on Tuesday.

Several more sites in the area, including tunnel shafts, were also struck, the IDF added.

In southern Gaza, the IDF said troops raided Hamas sites, captured weapons, and killed a five-man Hamas cell in a vehicle using a guided munition.

In Khan Younis fighter jets struck buildings where Hamas operatives were gathered and preparing to attack troops, the IDF said, while ground troops killed several gunman in clashes.

The military said it was continuing to operate in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, where soldiers killed several Hamas gunmen and located weapons over the past day.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry reported that 91 people were killed overnight during Israeli strikes. It said that since the start of the war, at least 29,954 people had been killed in Gaza. The figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 12,000 terror operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

War erupted when Hamas led a devastating cross-border attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Israel responded with a military campaign to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza and free the 253 hostages who were abducted by terrorists during the October 7 attack.

The security cabinet was set to meet Thursday evening amid efforts to secure a deal that would see a temporary ceasefire and the return of the 130 hostages still held in Gaza — not all of them alive.

An aerial view shows relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists, marching as they start a four-day march to Jerusalem calling for their release in Reim in southern Israel on February 28, 2024. The Hebrew banner on the leading vehicle reads, ‘Release them from Hell.’ (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Families of hostages began a four-day march from the south of the country to Jerusalem as they lobby for the government to quickly reach a deal that will secure freedom for their loved ones.

A US-drafted proposal reportedly provides for a six-week pause in fighting during which some 40 hostages would be freed in exchange for some 400 Palestinian security prisoners.

There have been conflicting reports on whether a deal is close at hand, and Israeli officials in recent days have said Hamas has signaled it is preparing to reject the terms of the latest proposal offered by mediators.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday that while the terror group is showing flexibility in talks for a potential deal, it is prepared to continue to fight.

The terror leader additionally called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to the flashpoint Temple Mount on the first day of Ramadan.

This handout picture provided by the Iranian foreign ministry on December 20, 2023, shows Qatar-based Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh speaking to journalists as he welcomes the Iranian foreign minister (not in the picture), in Doha. (Iranian Foreign Ministry / AFP)

Meanwhile, Hamas claimed to have fired 40 Grad rockets from Lebanon at IDF bases near Kiryat Shmona in the north of the country.

The IDF identified only some 10 rockets crossing the border, one of which struck a building in Kiryat Shmona, causing damage but no injuries.

Earlier, another four rockets were fired at the city, which caused no damage.

There has been daily violence across the border with Lebanon since October 8 when Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah began launching attacks on Israel it says are a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza. The level of violence has crept upwards with Hezbollah firing dozens of rockets at northern areas earlier in the week while the IDF has pounded the terror groups assets with airstrikes reaching further and further into Lebanon.

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