IDF suffers deadliest day in Gaza war with 24 soldiers killed, 21 in single attack

An anti-tank missile hits a building set to be demolished, setting off the explosives and flattening it, killing 19 troops; two others were killed when an RPG struck their tank.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In the worst day for Israel since the IDF began its invasion of the Gaza Strip, 21 soldiers were killed Monday afternoon in a single Hamas attack, with three others killed in separate incidents Monday.

As has happened countless times since the war began, several buildings a few hundred yards from the border fence were rigged with explosives by the Engineering Corps in order to take them down so Hamas terrorists could not use them to threaten civilians in Israel with rockets or direct fire.

The preliminary investigation revealed that the troops had also brought into the buildings Hamas landmines that had been found during recent military operations.

According to the IDF statement on the deadly incident, “An RPG was launched by the [Hamas] cell toward a complex of two adjoining houses occupied by dozens of soldiers as part of the operation. Initial estimates suggest that the anti-tank fire in the building triggered several explosives planted by the force inside, causing the complete collapse of the dual-building complex due to the massive blast.”

Nineteen men were killed and several more were injured as a result. Just prior to that, two other soldiers were killed and two were injured when an RPG struck their tank nearby, presumably fired by the same terrorist cell.

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Rescue efforts went on for hours, with rumors and half-known bits of information flying to the home front during this time in what has become a common phenomenon in this age of instant communications, but has the IDF pleading for it to stop.

“Behind the rumors are families experiencing their worst hour,” Chief IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari noted Tuesday, “and I call [the public] to act responsibly and with sensitivity.”

All the men who died were reserve duty soldiers.

Six of the ten whose names have so far been released for publication came from the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion: Sgt. First Class Hadar Kapeluk (23), Sgt. Maj. Sergey Gontmaher (37), Sgt. First Class Elkana Yehuda Sfez (25), Master Sgt. Yoav Levi (29), Sgt. First Class Nicholas Berger (22), and Sgt. First Class Cedrick Garin (23).

Three others, Command Sgt. Maj. Matan Lazar (32), Sgt. Maj. Barak Haim Ben Valid (33), and Sgt. Maj. Rafael Elias Mosheyoff (33), served in the brigade’s Battalion 6261.

One, Sgt. First Class Yoval Lopez (27), belonged to the 20th Brigade’s 9206th Battalion.

Two soldiers, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Itamar Tal, 32 from Mesilot, and Sgt. Maj. (res.) Adam Bismut, 35, a squad commander from Karnei Shomron, served in the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion.

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Sgt. Maj. (res.) Shay Biton Hayun, 40, from Zichron Yaakov, and Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Kasau Zegeye, 38, from Yokne’am Illit had served in the of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion.

The IDF will release the other names after their identities have been verified and their families are notified.

“War has a terrible and extremely painful price,” Hagari added in his statement. “The precious reserve soldiers who answered the call to the flag sacrificed what is most dear to them so that we can all live in security.”

Israel’s top leaders expressed their anguish over the death toll, which broke the 200 mark of those soldiers killed in Gaza since the ground invasion began just under three months ago.

They included President Isaac Herzog, who wrote that “behind every name whose world has fallen apart – a family that we take to our hearts with sorrow and pain, and at the same time with pride – for the heroism of the generation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “mourned” their deaths and wanted to “strengthen the dear families of our heroic warriors who fell on the battlefield. I know that for these families, their lives will be changed forever.”

Both he and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who also expressed his condolences “from the bottom of my heart,” repeated the dire necessity to push ahead to victory despite the pain of the losses.

“This is a war that will determine the future of Israel for decades to come; the fall of the soldiers is a requirement to achieve the goals of the war,” Gallant said.

After expressing his own sympathies and best wishes for the recovery of those wounded, war cabinet member Minister Benny Gantz of the Opposition National Unity party added another angle to their message.

“On this difficult morning, we must be united, remember the heavy price we are forced to pay for such a just war and the lofty goal for which our heroes fell – to secure our future, to return our daughters and sons, and to take care of Israel forever,” he posted to X. “Especially today, we are sending strength to all IDF soldiers and their commanders. We are all behind you.”

The army announced that it “is set to appoint a special investigative team to examine the circumstances of the incident to prevent its recurrence. The IDF has used hundreds of tons of explosives and mines in the war to demolish tunnels, Hamas bases, terrorists’ homes and complex targets throughout the Gaza Strip.”