((JEWISH REVIEW)) — Nine Israeli soldiers were killed, including six in one incident, during fighting in Gaza on Monday as Israel announced a new phase that officials said would be more targeted than the campaign that has devastated the enclave.
The announcement — made first to the New York Times — came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for the fourth time since Oct. 7, when Hamas initiated the war by invading Israel. Blinken’s aims include pressing Israel to limit additional civilian casualties in Gaza and to dial down tensions on the northern border, where Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon have been trading fire and the risk of a wider war is seen as growing.
A Hezbollah drone reportedly reached an IDF base in Safed on Tuesday, while Israel reportedly killed three alleged Hezbollah terrorists inside Lebanon. There were also casualties reported after a strike at the funeral of a slain Hezbollah commander, whom an Israeli minister said on Monday that Israel had killed. Another senior Hezbollah commander was killed on Tuesday, reportedly by Israel.
Monday marked one of the deadliest days for Israeli troops since the ground invasion of Gaza began in October. Israeli explosives meant to demolish a Hamas underground installation detonated unintentionally, and the explosion killed six members of an elite reserves brigade. The Israeli military is investigating the incident.
Among the dead were two study partners from a West Bank yeshiva whose funerals were scheduled for the same time on Tuesday and an American-born soldier who moved to Israel with his family.
Among the additional soldiers seriously wounded was Idan Amedi, a popular singer and actor whose credits include the hit TV show “Fauda.” Amedi was recovering from his injuries on Tuesday, according to a tweet from Avi Issacharoff, the creator of the TV series about Israeli soldiers battling Palestinian terrorists.
The latest casualties bring the military death toll in Gaza to 185, in addition to the hundreds of soldiers killed during Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7, when about 1,200 Israelis were killed. More than 130 Israelis are estimated to remain hostage in Gaza, with Israeli officials signaling that some are held close to Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ chief in the territory.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 23,000 people have been killed in the territory during the war. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel said in December that it believed at the time that one third of the casualties were combatants. Most of Gaza’s 2 million residents are displaced, with conditions harsh, food scarce and disease spreading.
The situation has led the Biden administration, which has staunchly defended Israel’s right to defend itself, to press for changes in the war. After President Joe Biden was heckled by an antiwar protester during an appearance in South Carolina on Monday, he emphasized that he was pressing Israel to scale back its offensive.
“I understand their passion, and I’ve been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza,” Biden said.
Cracks are also appearing in American Zionist organizations’ support for the war effort. On Monday, Americans for Peace Now, a left-wing pro-Israel group, called for a ceasefire — the first U.S. pro-Israel group to do so.