The main hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah received overnight (Monday into Tuesday) the bodies of at least 33 people, including 14 women and four children, who were killed in Israel’s intense bombardment across central Gaza. (Dec. 12) (AP Video/Aref Tufaha)

Ambush kills 9 Israeli soldiers in Gaza City, where battles rage weeks into devastating offensive

BY NAJIB JOBAIN, SAMY MAGDY AND MELANIE LIDMAN |

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian militants ambushed Israeli troops in a dense Gaza City neighborhood, killing at least nine of them, media reported Wednesday, as Hamas put up stiff resistance in areas that Israel has isolated and pounded with airstrikes for over nine weeks.

The air and ground offensive has resulted in the deaths of over 18,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the war. Nearly 85% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been forced to flee their homes, and much of the territory’s north resembles a moonscape.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly called on Israel to take greater measures to spare Palestinian civilians, even as it has blocked international calls for a cease-fire and rushed military aid to its close ally.

More than six weeks after Israeli soldiers invaded Gaza’s north, ground troops are still locked in heavy combat with Palestinian fighters in and around Gaza City. Clashes raged overnight and into Wednesday in multiple areas, with especially heavy fighting in Shijaiyah, a dense neighborhood that was the scene of a major battle during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

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Palestinian United Nations Ambassador Riyad Mansour, right, speaks during a press conference ahead of a U.N. General Assembly vote on a resolution calling for a cease fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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“It’s terrifying. We couldn’t sleep,” Mustafa Abu Taha, a Palestinian agricultural worker who lives in the neighborhood, said by phone. “The situation is getting worse and we don’t have a safe place to go.”

Army Radio said troops who were searching a cluster of buildings in Shijaiyah on Tuesday lost communication with four soldiers who had come under fire, sparking fears of a possible abduction. When the other soldiers launched a rescue operation, they were ambushed with heavy gunfire and explosives.

Among the nine dead were Col. Itzhak Ben Basat, 44, the most senior officer to have been killed in the ground operation, and Lt. Col. Tomer Grinberg, a battalion commander.

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