Update: Israel announced Sunday that 13 of its soldiers were killed in Gaza overnight fighting Hamas militants in Gaza.
According to the Times of Israel, in one of the incidents, an anti-tank missile was fired at an Israeli armored personnel carrier, killing seven soldiers in the neighborhood of Shijaiyah, the same area where dozens of Palestinians were reportedly later killed. Another IDF vehicle drove over an explosive, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
When the soldiers were ambushed, IDF forces began a heavy bombardment of the neighborhood, killing dozens of Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials, and sending others fleeing.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that to the “misfortune of Gaza’s residents … [Hamas] instead of building houses, schools, hospitals and factories” built a war machine in densely populated residential neighborhoods.
Israel agreed to a two hour ceasefire in a Gaza neighborhood Sunday following reports that more than 30 Palestinians had been killed during fighting there.
The Associated Press reported that the Shijaiyah neighborhood came under heavy tank fire as the IDF widened its ground operation against Hamas. The AP quoted Palestinian health officials who said that at least 30 were killed, though those figures did not break down how many were civilians or militants.
As of this writing, Israel had not yet provided its perspective on what exactly occurred, but Hamas said its fighters exchanged fire with the IDF in Shijaiyah and a nearby neighborhood. Locals said dozens of wounded, including children, were taken at daybreak to Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
What the IDF did say was that Palestinian residents had been warned days ago to pull out of the neighborhood where, the IDF contends, Hamas operates its rockets, tunnels and command centers and from where Hamas had fired more than 140 rockets since July 8.
Israel agreed to the short ceasefire to allow Palestinians to evacuate the bodies. Israel was also preparing a field hospital inside Israel just over the Gaza border to treat wounded Palestinians. Israeli media reported that the Israeli hospital treating Palestinian patients would be protected from the very rockets Hamas continues to fire at Israel from Gaza.
One hour into the temporary truce, Israel said that Hamas was not abiding by it and continued to fire.
“The gate of hell has opened, and shrapnel came through the windows,” Shijaiyah resident Jawad Hassanain told the AP by phone of the overnight fighting. “The house shook, so I took my mother, my children, my brother as well, and we started seeking refuge in a nearby building.”
The Gaza resident said that the fighting occurred between 12:30 a.m. until 4 a.m.
Israel expanded its offensive on Gaza Thursday, sending ground troops into the seaside strip with the expressed goal of dismantling tunnels used by Hamas to launch terror attacks on Israel. The IDF revealed some of the sophisticated network it found, suggesting that over years Hamas has used construction materials to build the tunnels, some of them 60 feet deep and more than a mile long.
Pro-Palestinian activists have decried Israel for years for limiting the amount of construction materials into Gaza due to fears they were being used in tunnel construction. In the past week, Hamas has used the tunnels at least three times to try to launch bloody attacks on Israeli communities just over the border, but were thwarted each time by the IDF.
The IDF said it had struck more than 2,500 terrorist targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers. According to Israeli figures quoted by the AP, some 70 militants have been killed.
Five Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground incursion began. Two Israeli citizens have been killed by Hamas rocket and mortar attacks.
More than 1,780 rockets have been fired at Israel in the past 13 days, according to IDF figures.