Ten Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, 8 in vehicle explosion

Eight IDF soldiers were killed by an explosion inside a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle.

By World Israel News

Ten Israeli soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, the military announced on Sunday morning. One additional soldier passed away from wounds sustained during fighting last week, according to the IDF.

Eight of the soldiers were killed in a single explosion in Rafah in southern Gaza, the deadliest incident in six months.

The casualties were identified as Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23, from Beit Jann; Sgt. Eliyahu Moshe Zimbalist, 21, from Beit Shemesh; Sgt. Itay Amar, 19, from Kochav Yair; Sgt. Stanislav Kostarev, 21, from Ashdod; Sgt. Or Blumovitz, 20, from Pardes Hanna-Karkur; Sgt. Oz Yeshaya Gruber, 20, from Tal Menashe; and Sgt. Yakir Ya’akov Levi, 21, from Hafetz Haim.

The final name was due to be released later.

The soldiers were killed by an explosion inside a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV).

The troops served in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion, which Mahmoud commanded.

After an initial investigation, the two possible causes of the blast are that an anti-tank missile hit the armored personnel carrier (APC) or that an APC hit an explosive device.

The incident occurred after an overnight operation in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafa during which soldiers from the  401st Armored Brigade killed 50 terrorists.’

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The Namer was part of a convoy headed toward buildings captured during the operations, where the troops were to rest.

The vehicle carrying the soldiers that were killed was the fifth or sixth in the convoy, and it isn’t yet known whether the explosion resulted from a bomb that was planted previously or if the terrorists hit the vehicle with explosives.

The IDF is also investigating whether explosives kept outside of the vehicle could have been responsible for the explosion. However, it would be unusual for bombs detonating outside of the car to cause the injuries that resulted in the deaths.

In a separate incident, Cpt. (res.) Eitan Koplovich, 28, from Jerusalem, and Warrant Officer (res.) Elon Waiss, 49, from Psagot, were killed when Hamas targeted their tank with explosives, according to the IDF. Two others were seriously wounded in the attack.

Separately, an IDF fighter who was seriously wounded during battle in the southern Strip on Monday succumbed to his wounds, the military said on Saturday night. He was named as Sgt. Yair Roitman, 19, of the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, from Karnei Shomron in Samaria.

Roitman was wounded when a blast collapsed a building they were searching in Rafah, in an incident that killed four other soldiers and wounded six, including five seriously.

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The total death toll among Israeli forces since the start of the Gaza ground operation on Oct. 27 now stands at 307, and at 659 on all fronts since the beginning of the war on Oct. 7, according to IDF data.

Captain Mahmoud’s uncle, Sharif Ghanem, said his nephew returned to fighting after being injured early in the war.

“A great tragedy has befallen us. Waseem was injured at the beginning of the war by shrapnel that penetrated his arm.”

Sharif Ghanem added, “He was supposed to undergo surgery, but he postponed it until the end of the war. Waseem was a determined and brave fighter, everyone loved him.”

Ghanem said, ” Waseem was supposed to start his studies in March, but he postponed them because his main focus was the army and his unit, and ensuring the security of the country.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement Saturday night following the incident: “Citizens of Israel, today we paid a heart-rending price in our just war in defense of our homeland,” adding that, “our hearts are shattered before this terrible loss. The entire people of Israel embraces the dear families in their most difficult hour of grief. I stand by our brave fighters and commanders, who are imbued with the sacred mission to defeat our enemies and return our hostages.”

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Netanyahu stated that, “despite the heavy and unsettling price, we must cling to the goals of the war: The destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, the return of all of our hostages, making certain that Gaza will never again constitute a threat to Israel and the return of our residents securely to their homes in both the north and the south.

“We are in the midst of a very difficult war. The war is being conducted on several fronts, including the international front. We are ready for many additional challenges. It is at this time that we must show our people’s strength of spirit, thanks to which we have overcome all of our enemies. So it will be this time as well.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant similarly released a statement adding: “The pain that comes with such loss is immense. My heart and my thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the fallen. I stand with the entire nation of Israel in remembering and honoring the heroes who fell while defending their people and their homeland.”