Eight Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza

By Isaac M December 24, 2023

Fourteen Israeli soldiers have been killed fighting in Gaza over the weekend, the Israeli military has said.

The deaths take the number of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) killed to 152 since its ground operation began on 20 October.

Some 480 IDF personnel have died since Hamas launched its incursion on 7 October.

This weekend’s deaths represent some of the bloodiest days of the conflict so far – and suggest Hamas is still as committed to its cause as it was when it started.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US President Joe Biden on Saturday to discuss the “objectives and phasing” of Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu stressed that “Israel will pursue the war until all of its objectives are fully met”, his office said. US officials, however, believe the next phase of fighting will be of lower intensity, focusing more specifically on the Hamas leadership and its infrastructure.

It comes after the UN fell short of calling for a humanitarian ceasefire on Friday, instead passing a resolution for increased aid to be transported into Gaza.

The US abstained from the vote, as Israel’s most powerful ally. The resolution sparked criticism from both Israel and Hamas.

Gazans search the rubble after an attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp
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Gazans search the rubble after an attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday

According to the Hamas-run Palestinian health ministry, 20,424 people have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, including 166 this weekend.

Figures from the World Programme recently revealed that a quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, with the vast majority also displaced.

In Israel, 1,200 people have been killed and 240 were taken hostage by Hamas and other militant groups. The Israeli military is still fighting for the release of 129 remaining captives.

In Bethlehem, the devastation caused by the conflict has been reflected in the traditional Nativity scene in Manger Square, with characters surrounded by barbed wire and rubble.

A UN official criticised Israel on Saturday after it issued another evacuation order, telling people in Gaza to move towards Deir al Balah, despite it being hit this week.

Israeli forces have said they are expanding their offensive in the north and south, and troops are fighting in “complex areas” in Khan Younis, the territory’s second-largest city, where Israel believes Hamas leaders are hiding.

Heavy Israeli bombardment and gunfire were reported on Sunday morning in the town of Jabaliya, an area north of Gaza City that Israel had previously claimed to control.

Meanwhile, the IDF said on Sunday it responded to “numerous launches toward the area of Keren Naftali, northern Israel”.

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‘Quiet and unprecedented’ in Bethlehem

Bethlehem's Nativity scene in Manger Square is surrounded by rubble and barbed wire
Image:
Bethlehem’s Nativity scene in Manger Square is surrounded by rubble and barbed wire

The conflict has spread to the Red Sea this month with Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacking Israeli-affiliated commercial ships.

Vessels have been forced to re-route away from the Suez Canal, adding an average 10 days to their journeys to Europe.

On Saturday, Israel continued to target Hezbollah targets inside Lebanon, where one of the 14 IDF soldiers was killed over the weekend.

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