Two soldiers killed in northern Gaza Strip, bringing ground op death toll to 156

Military says Navy struck Hamas operatives hiding near the coast, Air Force carried out strike against commander in Khan Younis

Nitai Meisels (L) and Rani Tamir (Courtesy)
Nitai Meisels (L) and Rani Tamir (Courtesy)

The Israel Defense Forces announced the deaths of two soldiers on Monday morning, both of whom were killed in fighting in the northern Gaza Strip the previous day, bringing the number of troops killed since the start of the ground operation in late October to 156.

The two soldiers were identified as:

  • Master Sgt. (res.) Nitai Meisels, 30, of the 14th Armored Brigade, from Rehovot
  • Sgt. Rani Tamir, 20, of the Nahal Brigade’s 50th Battalion, from Ganei Am

The IDF had previously announced that a third soldier, Maj. (res.) Aryeh Rein, 39, of the 14th Reserve Armored Brigade’s 79th Battalion was killed by an anti-tank guided missile on Sunday in northern Gaza.

A second soldier of the 50th Battalion was seriously injured in the same battle in which Tamir was killed, the IDF said.

The Israeli Navy struck several Hamas cells spotted near ground forces in the Gaza Strip over the past day, the IDF said, releasing footage of Navy shelling along the coast.

According to the IDF, the Navy struck Hamas operatives hiding in buildings near ground troops, as well as positions where gunmen opened fire from and launched mortars at Israeli soldiers.

The Air Force, meanwhile, struck and killed an unnamed Hamas commander in the Khan Younis area, the IDF said, and added that several more operatives carrying a rocket were killed in a separate strike.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry claimed Monday that 18 people were killed in an overnight strike on Khan Younis.

In northern Gaza, the 261st Brigade called in an airstrike on a building where several Hamas operatives were identified, the military said.

Overnight, Palestinians reported heavy Israeli bombardment and gunfire in Jabaliya, an area north of Gaza City that Israel has claimed to have gained control of.

Hamas claimed that 10 members of one family were killed in an Israeli strike on their house in Jabaliya, which could not be independently verified.

Smoke billows over Khan Younis during Israeli bombing in the southern Gaza Strip on December 25, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The Gaza health ministry also claimed that an Israeli air strike killed at least 70 people on Christmas Eve at the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, according to AFP, while AP cited Palestinian medical officials saying the toll had risen past 100. Neither claim could be indepedently verified.

The IDF said in response that it was “reviewing the incident” in Al-Maghazi, adding it was “committed to international law including taking feasible steps to minimize harm to civilians.”

Zeyad Awad, a resident of Al-Maghazi, said the strike — which eyewitnesses said leveled a three-story building and damaged neighboring ones — caused “extensive, enormous destruction and panic in the hearts of my children,” adding: “My child said to me, ‘Protect me, what’s happening? I can’t breathe.'”

The war began with the deadly Hamas onslaught on October 7, when thousands of terrorists stormed into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing around 240 hostages.

In response, Israel launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground invasion, vowing to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip and end its 16-year rule.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that since October 7, more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed. This number cannot be independently verified, however, and is believed to include around 8,000 Hamas or Hamas-affiliated operatives, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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