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8 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza in one of the deadliest incidents for the IDF since October 7

<i>Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>
Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

By Lauren Izso, Ibrahim Dahman, Eyad Kourdi and Andrew Raine, CNN

(CNN) — Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in southern Gaza on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces says, in one of the deadliest single incidents involving its troops since October 7.

The IDF said the incident was still under review but preliminary findings suggested an armored vehicle carrying soldiers as part of a convoy had been hit by an explosion at around 5:15 a.m. local time during an operation targeting “terrorist infrastructure” in the northwestern part of Tal al-Sultan.

“According to the information we have at this point one of the engineering vehicles in the convoy was involved in an explosion that was apparently caused by explosive devices planted in the area or as a result of anti-tank missile fire,” IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari told a press conference Saturday.

The IDF is also investigating whether the initial explosion was compounded when explosive materiel aboard the vehicle detonated.

“The current assessment is that the ‘Nemera’ armored vehicle got hit as a result of an explosion of a side bomb. In addition, on the vehicle there were engineering tools that include explosive materiel. The explosion was significant and may have been caused by the ignition of the explosive materiel on the vehicle. All this is not supposed to happen and therefore the incident is being examined,” the IDF said.

So great was the damage that it was difficult to identify and locate the bodies of those killed, the Israeli military added.

“Today we received another painful reminder of the price of war and that brave warriors and heroes were willing to sacrifice their lives for the state of Israel, which is the common home of all of us: Druze, Jews, Bedouin, Muslims and Christians. All citizens of Israel, our hearts and thoughts are with the families at this difficult time,” Hagari said at the press conference.

The IDF has not announced who they think was responsible for the incident.

However, Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said it had “carried out a complex ambush against enemy vehicles” operating in Tal al-Sultan, which lies west of the southern city of Rafah.

The militant group claimed it had targeted a military bulldozer, which then caught on fire, and that when rescue troops arrived, it hit an armored personnel carrier with a missile strike.

“Our painful strikes against the enemy will continue everywhere they are present, and the occupying army will find nothing but death traps,” the militant group said.

The Israeli military has so far released the names of six of the eight soldiers killed in the incident. The troops, ages 19-23, were all members of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

Meanwhile in the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City, located in the enclave’s north, two reservists were killed in an incident involving an explosive device on the tank they were traveling in, Israeli media, including CNN affiliate Channel 11 (Kan News), reported.

The IDF did not say who they thought was responsible for the incident.

We must stick to war goals: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech on Saturday, spoke of his “deep sorrow” over the deaths, describing the enemy as “loathsome and murderous,” but pledged to stick to his war goals.

“Despite the heavy and staggering cost, we must stick to the goals of the war: destroying the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas, returning all our abductees, making sure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel and returning our residents safely to their homes – both in the north and in the south,” Netanyahu said.

He came under fire from opposition leader Yair Lapid, who accused Netanyahu of prioritizing political gains over national unity.

Speaking at an anti-government rally in Tel Aviv, Lapid offered his condolences to the families of the eight soldiers killed in Tal al-Sultan before criticizing what he claimed was Netanyahu’s response to a previous incident involving the deaths of four soldiers earlier this week.

“When the (four soldiers earlier this week) were killed, we were in the Knesset, voting on the conscription law. The whole Knesset already knew. We were all in a difficult, depressed mood, then we looked up and saw that there was one person who didn’t feel that way (Netanyahu); we saw him smile,” Lapid said.

“That smile will bury his political career. This smile will remove him from our lives,” Lapid added.

The rally in Tel Aviv was attended by thousands of Israelis calling for an immediate ceasefire to secure the release of the remaining hostages. Similar protests have been taking place almost weekly.

Various other ministers expressed their sorrow at the deaths, including defense minister Yoav Gallant, foreign minister Israel Katz and national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

“Eight of our best sons were killed in Rafah,” Katz said in a post on X. “While knowing the price, they bravely entered Gaza to complete the mission of destroying Hamas and freeing the hostages.”

Meanwhile Benny Gantz, who resigned from Israel’s war cabinet just days ago, described the eight soldiers as “the beautiful faces of the people of Israel, the best among us.”

“The heart is torn by hearing the hard news, we will never stop protecting our country, and our society” Gantz added.

Push into Rafah

Reports of airstrikes and artillery shelling emerged since dawn local time as Israel continues its push into Rafah.

Ahmed Radwan, the media officer of Rafah Civil Defense, said they had received appeals to collect bodies and the injured but it was difficult for civil defense crews to access the area.

Some of the fiercest fighting of recent days has been seen in Tal al-Sultan.

Hamas on Friday said its fighters targeted Israeli tanks in the neighborhood with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and mortars, while the IDF said it found tunnels between neighboring houses used by militants as passageways.

Elsewhere, at least 14 people were killed, including seven children, in Israeli strikes on central Gaza, the Civil Defense Directorate in Gaza said.

In total, 30 people have been killed and 95 injured in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

The conflict in Gaza began after the Hamas attacks of October 7, which killed around 1,200 people. Since then at least 37,296 people have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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From CNN’s Abeer Salman contributed reporting.

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