Israel-Hamas war: More than a dozen Israeli soldiers killed in weekend fighting

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Fourteen Israeli soldiers were killed in weekend fighting in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said Sunday, in the bloodiest days of fighting Hamas since the start of a ground offensive. Despite weeks of brutal warfare, the fighting is still going on.

The rising death toll among Israeli troops may be a major factor in Israeli public support for a war fueled by Hamas-led militias. attacked communities in southern Israel On October 7, it killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. Parts of the Gaza Strip were destroyed and killed in the war About 20,400 Palestinians Nearly 85% of Gaza's 2.3 million people were displaced.

The health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza said 166 people had been killed in the coastal area last day.

The Israelis are still firmly behind Stated goals of the country crushing Hamas' regime and military capabilities and freeing the remaining 129 prisoners. Despite growing international pressure against Israel's offensive, that support has largely held steady despite the rising death toll and unprecedented suffering among Palestinians.

But a growing number of dead players could undermine that support. The deaths of soldiers are a touchy and sensitive topic in Israel, where military service is mandatory for most Jews.

The names of fallen soldiers are announced at the top of hourly newscasts, and in a small country of about 9 million people, every family knows a relative, friend or colleague who has lost a family member in war.

Hamas is the right price

The 14 Israeli soldiers who were killed on Friday and Saturday died in the fighting Central and Southern GazaIt's a sign of how Hamas is still putting up stiff resistance against advancing Israeli troops, even as Israel claims to have dealt a heavy blow to the militant group.

Four soldiers were killed when their vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile, according to Israeli military radio. Others were killed in separate, sporadic skirmishes.

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Another soldier was killed in northern Israel by fire from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which has been engaged in a low-level skirmish with Israel since the outbreak of war with Hamas. raising fears of a wider regional conflict.

Their deaths bring to 153 the number of Israeli soldiers killed since the ground offensive began.

“War exacts a heavy price from us, but we have no choice but to continue fighting,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet meeting on Sunday. “We continue with all our might, to the end, to victory, to the achievement of our goals.”

Even as Israelis support the war effort, there is widespread anger against Netanyahu's government, which many criticize for failing to protect civilians since October 7. Promoting policies that have allowed Hamas to gain strength for many years.

On Saturday night, thousands of people demonstrated in pouring rain in Tel Aviv, chanting “Bibi, Bibi, we don't want you anymore,” referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.

Netanyahu has not accepted responsibility Military and policy failures until October 7, he said, answering tough questions once the fighting is over.

Expanding the attack

On Saturday, Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said forces were expanding their offensive in northern and southern Gaza, and that troops were fighting in “complicated areas” in Gaza's second-largest city of Khan Younis, where Israel believes Hamas leaders are holed up.

Israel's attack is the same The most destructive military campaigns in recent history and exacted a staggering toll on Palestinian civilians. Two-thirds of the 20,000 killed were women and children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, which did not distinguish between civilians and militants.

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A 13-year-old boy was shot dead by an Israeli drone strike while inside the building of Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis, the Palestinian Red Cross said on Sunday morning. It did not provide further details.

An overnight Israeli strike hit a house in a refugee camp west of the town of Rafah on Gaza's border with Egypt. At least two men were killed and their bodies taken to Abu Yusuf al-Najjar hospital, Associated Press journalists at the hospital said.

Palestinians reported heavy Israeli shelling and gunfire Sunday morning in the Israeli-held town of Jabaliya, north of Gaza City. Explosions and gunfire echoed throughout the city, they said, and Israeli warplanes flew over the area. Hamas's military wing said its fighters shelled Israeli troops in Jabaliya and the Jabaliya refugee camp.

“At night there are explosions and heavy fighting,” said Asad Ratwan, a Palestinian fisherman from Jabaliya. “The sounds of explosions and gunfire never stop.”

On Saturday, Israeli airstrikes on two homes in Gaza killed more than 90 Palestinians, including dozens of members of a large family, rescue workers and hospital officials said.

Israel has come under heavy international criticism for the rising civilian death toll, widespread damage and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Israel blames Hamas for many of the civilian deaths, citing the militants' use of crowded residential areas and tunnels. Israel has carried out thousands of airstrikes since October 7 and has largely avoided commenting on specific strikes.

Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters, including about 2,000 in the past three weeks since expanding its offensive into southern Gaza, but has not provided evidence. It claims to be dismantling Hamas' vast underground tunnel network and killing top Hamas commanders – a move that leaders have said could take months.

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International pressure

The mounting casualties on both sides came days after the UN Security Council passed A diluted resolution It calls for the swift delivery of humanitarian aid to hungry and desperate Palestinians and the release of all hostages, but not a ceasefire.

It was not immediately clear how and when aid deliveries would be accelerated following the UN resolution. The trucks enter through two crossings – Rafah on the border with Egypt and Kerem Shalom on the border with Israel. On Friday, fewer than 100 trucks entered, the UN said – well below the daily average of 500 before the war.

Both crossings were closed on Saturday by a mutual agreement between Israel, Egypt and the UN, Israeli officials said.

UN Refugee Agency High Commissioner Filippo Grandi on Sunday reiterated calls from other top officials for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and to help free the hostages.

“For aid to reach the people in need, hostages must be freed, displacement must be avoided and above all catastrophic loss of life is the only way forward to end the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,” he wrote in X.

Israel's Allies in Europe They also stepped up their demand to stop fighting. But the United States, Israel's top ally, appeared firmly behind Israel, even as it stepped up its calls for greater security for civilians in Gaza.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Saturday, a day after Washington spared Israel a tough UN resolution. Biden said he had not called for a cease-fire, while Netanyahu's office said the prime minister “made it clear that Israel will continue the war until it achieves all of its goals.”

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Shurafa reported from Deir al-Bala, Gaza Strip. Magdy reported from Cairo.

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