Israel says 24 troops killed in Gaza fighting, highest single-day toll By Reuters

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© Reuters. Israeli soldiers react while firing a mortar, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, on the border with the central Gaza, Israel January 22, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Emily Rose

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Twenty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza, the military said on Tuesday, the biggest death toll in a single day since the war began in October, amid what Palestinians said was the most intense bombardment of southern Gaza in the conflict.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters that 21 soldiers were killed in an explosion. He said militants had fired rocket-propelled grenades at a tank, and at the same time an explosion occurred in two buildings where forces had planted explosives in order to destroy them. The buildings collapsed onto the troops.

“We are still studying and investigating the details of the event and the reasons for the explosion,” he said. Earlier, the military had said three soldiers were killed in a separate attack in southern Gaza.

The assault came as Israeli forces pushed deep into western Khan Younis in Gaza, with an air, sea and land bombardment that included storming a hospital and arresting medical staff, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al Qidra told Reuters.

There was no word from Israel on the situation at the hospital, and the military spokesperson’s office had no comment.

Qidra said at least 50 people were killed on Sunday night in Khan Younis, while the sieges at medical facilities meant dozens of dead and wounded were beyond the reach of rescuers.

The United States called on Israel to protect innocent Palestinians and medical staff.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby (NYSE:) said on Monday that Israel had a right to defend itself, but added: “We expect them to do so in accordance with international law and to protect innocent people in hospitals, medical staff and patients as well, as much as possible.”

Israel says Hamas fighters operate in and around hospitals, which Hamas and medical staff deny.

Israel launched an offensive last week to capture Khan Younis, which it now says is the principal headquarters of the Hamas militants responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel that according to Israeli tallies killed 1,200 people.

Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules Gaza and is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

At least 25,295 Gazans have been killed since Oct. 7, Gaza health authorities said in an update on Monday.

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International concern has mounted over the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s assault on the densely populated enclave and a humanitarian crisis afflicting hundreds of thousands of people.

The United States has urged Israel to reduce civilian harm in Gaza, called on it to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and has said it still believes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible.

In Brussels on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz sidestepped discussion of a two-state solution at a meeting with European Union counterparts, opting to show them aspirational videos of future infrastructure projects.

Israel has pushed back against calls for a Palestinian state, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that any Palestinian state would pose “an existential danger” to Israel.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has circulated a discussion paper with a roadmap to peace that calls for a preparatory peace conference organised by the EU and Arab nations. The U.S. and U.N. were invited to be conveners.

Washington on Monday called for an investigation and accountability “as appropriate” following the West Bank death on Friday of a 17-year-old Palestinian American, who Palestinian health officials say was killed by Israeli security forces.

The Israel-occupied West Bank has seen a surge of violence in parallel to the Gaza war that erupted in October.

The uncle of the American-born youth told Reuters he had died during clashes with the Israeli military that included stone throwing by Palestinians.

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