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Israeli tank fire kills five Israeli soldiers in north Gaza

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The Israeli military has reported the loss of five of its soldiers due to friendly fire from Israeli tanks in the northern region of Gaza. This incident, one of the most lethal of its kind, occurred amidst the ongoing conflict with Hamas that commenced this past October.

During an initial investigation, it was revealed that the soldiers were congregated in a building within the Jabalia refugee camp when they were struck by two tanks. This week marked the return of troops to the area following a previous withdrawal, prompted by intelligence suggesting Hamas had reconsolidated its forces there.

The conflict has led to a mass exodus of Palestinians, with tens of thousands fleeing the intense combat and bombardment. The Israeli military, alongside the military wing of Hamas, has acknowledged that the confrontations in and around the Jabalia camp have escalated.

The southern city of Rafah has also been engulfed in conflict, resulting in the displacement of nearly 600,000 individuals since the initiation of an Israeli operation a mere 10 days ago. This area had previously served as a sanctuary for over a million displaced persons.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) disclosed that the soldiers who perished were part of the 202nd Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade, and their deaths were the consequence of friendly fire. The incident involved two tanks firing upon a building utilized by the battalion’s second-in-command.

According to the IDF’s preliminary findings, the tank operators, belonging to the ultra-Orthodox paratrooper company Hetz, mistook a protruding gun barrel from a window of the building as a threat and coordinated a strike on the structure.

This misfortune resulted in injuries to seven additional soldiers, three of whom sustained serious wounds. The death toll of Israeli soldiers since the onset of the ground offensive in Gaza on October 27 has now risen to 278.

Furthermore, the IDF’s website states that as of this Wednesday, 44 soldiers—representing 15% of the total fatalities in Gaza—have died due to what is classified as “operational accidents.” These include 22 deaths from friendly fire, five from firing discrepancies, and 17 from various accidents, such as those involving weaponry and trampling.

In a separate but related incident, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the deaths of four individuals, including a pregnant woman, resulting from an Israeli airstrike on a residence in the al-Faluja area of the Jabalia camp.

Hamas’s military wing has claimed responsibility for targeting an Israeli troop carrier with an anti-tank missile in the Block 2 area of the Jabalia camp and for deploying explosive devices against armored bulldozers to the east of Jabalia town.

The IDF’s chief of staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, has communicated to the troops in Gaza that Israeli forces are conducting extensive and forceful strikes in Jabalia. He emphasized the necessity to re-engage with the area to counteract Hamas’s efforts to regroup and to demonstrate Israel’s resolve to respond to any resurgence.

Medical sources cited by Wafa have reported the deaths of over 30 civilians, including 10 children, in Israeli airstrikes on residential structures in the vicinity of Gaza City. Among the casualties was Palestine Post photojournalist Mahmoud Jahjouh and several of his family members.

After declaring the dismantlement of Hamas’s battalions in Jabalia, Gaza City, and the northern region this January, the IDF reduced its operations. However, this has created a vacuum, allowing Hamas to regroup and rebuild its strength.

Currently, an estimated 300,000 individuals remain trapped in the ravaged area, enduring severe hardships.

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