They died in the collapse of two buildings due to an explosion • Israeli defense minister: “Our hearts are with the dear families in their most difficult time.”
Twenty-one soldiers were killed in central Gaza on Monday when two buildings collapsed due to a blast, Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed on Tuesday morning.
It was the deadliest day since the start of the military campaign against Hamas in Gaza on Oct. 27.
The incident occurred 600 meters (2,000 feet) from the Israeli border near the northwestern Negev community of Kibbutz Kissufim as Israeli forces were working on clearing Hamas infrastructure and buildings to establish a buffer zone.
According to Hagari, at around 4 p.m. terrorists fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a tank securing the forces. At the same time, two two-story buildings collapsed as a result of an explosion while most of the troops were inside or near them. The blast was apparently caused by explosives planted by the Israeli forces, intended to destroy the buildings in a controlled event.
Hagari emphasized that the incident is still under investigation, including the cause of the explosion.
He added that a “very complicated” rescue operation took place involving commanders and rescue workers who arrived quickly to the scene.
“War has a very painful and heavy price. The dedicated reservists, who stood up for the flag, sacrificed the most precious of all, for the security of the State of Israel and so that we can all live here safely,” said Hagari.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday called it “an unbearably difficult morning, in which more and more names of the best of our sons…are added to the gravestones of heroes.”
Herzog continued: “Behind every name is a family whose world has fallen, a family whose pain and sorrow we feel in our hearts. At the same time, we feel pride for the heroism of our generation, for the mission to combat evil, for sticking to the goal and for the love of our people and homeland.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that “our hearts are with the dear families in their most difficult time,” adding: “This is a war that will determine the future of Israel for decades to come—the fall of the soldiers compels us to achieve the goals of the fighting.”
The IDF has released for publication the names of 10 of the soldiers killed in the incident. The families of the remaining 11 have been notified and the military will release their names soon.
They are: Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan Lazar; Sgt. First Class (res.) Hadar Kapeluk; Sgt. Maj. (res.) Sergey Gontmaher; Sgt. First Class (res.) Elkana Yehuda Sfez; Sgt. First Class (res.) Yoval Lopez; Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi; Sgt. First Class (res.) Nicholas Berger; Sgt. First Class (res.) Cydrick Garin; Sgt. Maj. (res.) Rafael Elias Mosheyoff; and Sgt. Maj. (res.) Barak Haim Ben Valid.
A total of 210 soldiers have been killed since the start of Gaza ground operations on Oct. 27, and 545 have been killed on all fronts since the start of the war on Oct. 7.
Image: IDF troops operating in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 21, 2024. Credit: IDF.