The Israeli military said 24 soldiers were killed in Gaza yesterday, 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.
Mr 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 civilians and medical staff.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said yesterday 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 7 October 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 people have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, Gaza health authorities said in an update yesterday.
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 yesterday, 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 US and UN were invited to be conveners.
The US has also 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.
The Hamas attack also saw about 250 hostages seized, and Israel says around 132 remain in Gaza. That number includes the bodies of at least 28 dead hostages, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli data.
Relatives of the captives stormed a parliamentary committee meeting yesterday demanding urgent action.
“You sit here while our children are dying over there,” said Gilad Korngold, father of hostage Tal Shoham.
US news outlet Axios reported last night that Israel had proposed to Hamas, via Qatari and Egyptian mediators, a new deal to free all the hostages.
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The report, citing unnamed Israeli officials, said the proposed deal would be carried out in multiple stages, and would also involve the release of an undetermined number of Palestinians.
The plan was expected to take about two months to complete.
The proposal does not include promises to end the war, but it would involve Israeli troops reducing their presence in major cities in Gaza and gradually allowing residents to return to the territory’s devastated north, the Axios report said.
News of the proposal comes as US media said the White House’s coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, was expected in Egypt and Qatar for meetings aimed at securing a new hostage exchange deal.
US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel, however, said that Washington still believed “a two-state solution, a creation of a Palestinian state, is the only path that gets us out of this endless cycle of violence”.
The war in Gaza has spurred fears of a wider escalation, with a surge in violence involving Iran-backed Hamas allies across the region.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels have announced that they had fired missiles at a US military ship in the Gulf of Aden near the Red Sea, but a US defence official said no attack had taken place.
The United States and Britain later announced a fresh round of strikes on Houthi targets in response to the rebels’ continued attacks on Red Sea shipping.
The US Central Command said in a statement that the targets of the strikes “included missile systems and launchers, air defence systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities”.