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Peace and Conflict

21 soldiers killed in worst incident since October 7th | Update 23rd January 2024

21 soldiers killed in worst incident since October 7th via BICom

What’s happened: On Monday, Israel suffered its heaviest loses since the beginning of the ground offensive.  

  • The IDF Spokesperson’s Office announced this morning that 21 IDF reservists were killed in an incident inside the Gaza Strip yesterday.
  • According to initial reports, the IDF soldiers were in the process of destroying buildings using mines, together with engineering troops. Two rocket-propelled grenades were fired, the first towards a tank, as a result of which two soldiers were killed. The second RPG was fired at one of the buildings that already had explosives inside. These then detonated, leading to the buildings collapsing.
  • Through the night, rescue teams operated to extract injured soldiers and retrieve the bodies. In addition to the fatalities, seven soldiers were injured and transferred to hospital, two in serious condition, two moderate, and three light.
  • The incident took place just 600 metres from the border fence on the Gaza side. The buildings designated for demolition were part of the plan to create a buffer zone and restore a sense of security for when Israelis can return to their homes so close to the fence.
  • In a separate incident, three IDF officers were also killed yesterday in an intense fire fight between IDF troops and Hamas gunmen in Khan Yunis. Three more soldiers were seriously wounded.

Humanitarian Aid: Sunday saw a record high 260 humanitarian aid trucks enter the Gaza Strip, the most on any single day since the outset of the war. An additional 213 trucks went in yesterday.

  • According to data provided by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Office, 9,923 aid trucks have entered the Gaza Strip so far in the war, delivering 182,670 tonnes of humanitarian aid. The total includes:
    • 5,586 trucks transporting 117,350 tonnes of food.
    • 1,440 trucks transporting 20,780 tonnes of shelter.
    • 1,143 trucks transporting 13,550 tonnes of medical supplies.
    • 947 trucks transporting 19,020 tonnes of water.
    • 807 trucks transporting 11,970 tonnes of other aid.
  • Nonetheless, Yediot Ahronot suggests that “most of the humanitarian aid being delivered to the Gaza Strip isn’t reaching its intended recipients and has done little to help the civilian population,” with “Hamas officials who control the aid coming into Gaza… unmoved by the sight of hungry and cold children.”

Context: In total, 221 IDF soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the ground operation inside Gaza and a total of 555 IDF soldiers have been killed since Hamas launched its attack on October 7th.

  • These announcements follow strict protocols. As with all fatalities, the immediate family members are notified before the deaths are made public. In addition, the immediate family notifies the wider family before the names are released to the media.     
  • Reports claim that Israel has presented a new potential hostage deal to Egyptian and Qatari mediators.
  • The proposed deal would see Israel agree to pause fighting in the Gaza Strip for two months and to the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners – including those sentenced for serious crimes – in exchange for the release of all of the hostages and the bodies of dead Israelis held in Gaza, with releases occurring in several stages.
  • The first stage would see the release of the remaining women hostages, alongside men over 60 and those in poor health. Female soldiers, male soldiers, and those hostages serving in civilian security squads would be released in later stages, as would the bodies of those who have died.
  • In total over 250 people were kidnapped on October 7th. 121 have so far been extricated, while 136 remain in captivity. Of those, it is estimated at least 27 are no longer alive.
  • Alongside the hostage releases, Israel would agree to a fighting pause which would see an IDF redeployment in Gaza, away from major population centres, and the monitored return to their homes of displaced residents of Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Meeting yesterday with hostages’ families, Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed that Israel had presented a deal and was awaiting Hamas’s response.
  • Netanyahu hinted that, in the meantime, the intensity of Israeli operations in Gaza would remain high, since his view is that the greater the military pressure on Hamas, the more likely it us that Hamas will accept the Israeli proposal.
  • Netanyahu also claimed that no military operation to free the remaining hostages was currently on the table, and that, contrary to reports, there was uniformity of opinion on the hostage question within the war cabinet.
  • Reports have recently claimed that Minister Gadi Eisenkot – who entered the War Cabinet alongside Minister Gantz – has advocated a greater priority placed on releasing hostages, even if it comes at the cost of limiting combat.
  • Elsewhere, a small group of hostages’ relatives burst into a meeting being held by the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday.
  • They held up placards addressed to MKs reading “You won’t sit here while they’re dying there,” and “You brought down a government over hametz, but not over this?” (The latter is a reference to the collapse of the Bennett-Lapid government in 2022.)
  • Last night, around 200 people, including released hostages and their families, demonstrated near the Prime Minister’s Residence on Azza Street in Jerusalem, some spending the whole night there.

Looking ahead: In the latest US diplomatic efforts, US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk is in Cairo to advance a hostage deal. He is expected to proceed to Qatar.

  • President Biden supports a temporary pause in fighting to secure a hostage release and the delivery of more humanitarian aid to Gaza.
  • Israel’s war cabinet is expected to convene on Thursday to discuss this issue, with a delay caused by last night’s disaster in Gaza.

via BICom