Members of an Israeli artillery unit move toward the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, 01 November 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

11 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; foreigners, wounded leaving through Rafah

Jerusalem/Rafah, Nov 1 (EFE).- Eleven Israeli soldiers have died during clashes with Palestinian militants inside the Gaza Strip since Israel expanded its ground operations in the enclave, the Israeli army said Wednesday.

A military spokesman on Wednesday published a list of nine names of soldiers killed in fighting a day earlier.

The army had already confirmed on Tuesday the deaths of two members of a reconnaissance unit, who died when the building they were in collapsed after a Hamas attack.

Smoke billows from the northern part of the Gaza Strip as a result of an Israeli airstrike, as seen from southern Israel, 01 November 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

According to Israeli media, seven of the soldiers, all members of the Givati Brigade, were killed after their vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile fired by fighters from Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Strip. Four others were wounded in that attack.

The other two soldiers were killed when the tank they were in drove over an explosive device.

“We are in a tough war. It will be a long war. We have important achievements in it, but also painful losses,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the soldiers’ deaths.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas began on Oct. 7 when the Palestinian Islamist group attacked Israel, leaving 1,400 dead and more than 5,400 wounded, while some 240 hostages were taken to Gaza.

In total, 326 Israeli soldiers have been killed, most of them on Oct. 7.

People hold Egyptian and Palestinian flags at Rafah border gate between Egypt and Gaza, in Rafah, Egypt, 31 October 2023. EFE/EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Since then, the Israeli army has been bombing Gaza in retaliation, and on Friday expanded ground operations. More than 8,800 people in the enclave have died and more than 21,500 have been wounded.

The violence has also caused huge displacements, with crowds of Palestinians trying to leave the Strip through the southern Rafah crossing at the border with Egypt.

Several groups of wounded civilians and Palestinians with foreign passports were allowed to leave the enclave on Wednesday morning, with up to 400 people expected to have left by the end of the day.

The departure of Palestinians with dual citizenship and foreigners residing in Gaza – achieved after an agreement was reached between Egypt, Hamas and Israel, with mediation by Qatar – has been a source of diplomatic tension since the beginning of hostilities on Oct. 7.

A humanitarian aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip, is seen parked outside Rafah border gate, at the Rafah border crossing, Egypt, 31 October 2023. EFE/EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

In the first days last month of the Israeli siege of the enclave, there were several reports of an imminent departure of foreigners, which never transpired.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian authorities said Israel’s failure to comply with an agreement to allow “unlimited” aid into Gaza was behind the delay.

Deya Rashwan, a spokesman for the Egyptian government, told a press conference at the Rafah crossing that his country had been ready for days to allow the entry of foreigners “but within an agreement to allow unlimited access for humanitarian aid,” which never materialized.

Humanitarian supplies, which had been blocked on the Egyptian side of the border until last week, have started to trickle through the border crossing.

According to the United Nations, before the current conflict between Israel and Hamas began, some 500 trucks with humanitarian aid entered Gaza every day. An average of just 12 have entered per day over the past week.

On Tuesday 39 trucks entered Palestinian territory after several countries, including the United States, urged the Israeli government to expedite the entry of aid supplies.

Egypt has refused to take in refugees from Gaza so as not to facilitate the alleged “ethnic cleansing” which it says is the aim of Israel’s campaign against the Palestinian enclave, but was always in favor of receiving the wounded and allowing the departure of foreigners, provided they return to their home countries.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian telecommunications operator announced Wednesday another internet and telephone outage in the Strip after “international lines that had been reconnected were cut again,” Paltel said in a statement.

Communications in Gaza were restored on Sunday after being cut for a day and a half, coinciding with Israel’s announcement on Oct. 27 that it had expanded its ground operations inside the Palestinian enclave.