As the Palestinian death toll hits 450, after 12 days of the Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials have acknowledged the deaths of 23 Israeli soldiers killed by the Palestinian resistance. 13 of the soldiers were killed early Sunday morning, during the Israeli ground invasion into Shuja’eyya neighborhood that left over seventy Palestinians, including whole families, dead, and led to a mass exodus of over 35,000 Palestinian civilians.The ground assault on this neighborhood filled with civilians has been condemned by international human rights observers, and Palestinians are calling it a massacre. Sherine Tadros of Sky News reported that the Palestinians who fled the neighborhood “are not carrying bags packed with clothes, they are not carrying anything. They are literally running for their lives.
‘They are leaving this area but of course there is nowhere safe here. You expect to see all these people flee across a border, but they can’t cross a border. Gaza is completely locked off.’
International solidarity volunteer Rina Andolini reported going into Shuja’eyya during two hours deemed by the U.N. to be a ‘humanitarian pause’ in fighting, on Sunday afternoon, and witnessed a Palestinian man searching for his family in the rubble shot by Israeli snipers four times, killing him. She wrote, “The Death Zone is unlike any destruction I have seen in my life – there is no place left without bombing, shelling or sniper shots. Total devastation.”
During the Israeli invasion of Shuja’eyya Sunday morning, Israeli soldiers were met with resistance from Palestinians with small arms fire, as well as a homemade shell that took out an Israeli Armored Personnel Carrier, killing the seven soldiers inside. Palestinian fighters have published a video of the incident, which shows the explosion of the armored personnel carrier. Three soldiers were killed in a separate ambush, including two officers, and three soldiers who were killed by Palestinian gunfire in Shuja’eyya.
Israeli media also reports an incident in which a Palestinian shell was fired at a Palestinian building that had been taken over by Israeli soldiers for use as a military post, which killed three. If confirmed, it would mean that 16 soldiers, not 13, were killed on Sunday.
The armed wing of the Hamas party, the al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement on Sunday that they had captured an Israeli soldier from the Golani Brigades. He was identified as 21-year-old Shaul Aron.
The US-based news service Buzzfeed spoke with Samer Saioudi, a lawyer in Gaza City, who said, “Psychologically, Hamas has already given the Palestinian people a victory. People are celebrating because for over a week it was been nothing but misery in Gaza. They now feel like their side has accomplished something, and maybe this will make the war end.”
The last time an Israeli soldier was captured, in 2006, he was held for over five years by Palestinian resistance fighters in an undisclosed location. A massive Israeli military operation into Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009 failed to locate the captured soldier, but led to the deaths of over 1,400 Palestinans, at least 1,100 of whom were civilians. Palestinian resistance groups made repeated attempts to release the soldier in exchange for a release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel (many without charges), but Israeli authorities refused to negotiate. Eventually, in 2011, around 1,000 of the 6,000 Palestinians then being held in Israeli prisons were released in exchange for the release of the captured soldier, who was returned home unharmed.
Two of the soldiers killed Sunday were listed as U.S. citizens who had traveled to Israel to serve in the military. The names of the thirteen soldiers killed Sunday have not yet been released.
On Sunday, the Israeli military identified five soldiers who had been killed by Palestinian resistance fighters on Thursday, July 17th.
They were identified as:
1. Major Tsafrir Bar-Or,32,
2. Captain Zvika Kaplan, 28, a resident of an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank
3. Sergeant Oz Mendelovich, 21
4. Sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21
5. Sergeant Gilad Yaakobi, 21
Previously, the military had identified a soldier who was killed Friday, July 18th, while invading Gaza as:
6. First Sergeant Eitan Barak.
The Israeli military also released the names of four Israeli soldiers killed while invading the Gaza Strip on Saturday:
7. Major Amotz Greenberg, 45
8. Sergeant Adar Bersano, 20
9. Second Lieutenant Bar Rahav, 21
10. Sergeant Bnaya Rubel, 20
An unnamed Israeli soldier, age 38, was killed Tuesday, July 14th, by a Palestinian resistance shell fired at Erez military base, on the northern border of Gaza. Initially the soldier was listed as a civilian, but later accounts confirmed that he was a volunteer with the Israeli army.
One Israeli civilian has been killed by a shell fired from the Palestinian resistance on Saturday July 19th, a 32-year old Bedouin Palestinian man from a village unrecognized by Israel, who was living in a makeshift shanty with a tin roof. A shell aimed at Dimona fell short, and hit his house.
This is in contrast to the over 400 Palestinians who have been killed by the Israeli military – over 85% of whom are civilians, according to human rights observers.
While Israeli officials claim that Palestinian resistance fighters place civilians, including women and children, near ‘rocket launchers’, photographic evidence of Israeli airstrikes show no such rocket launchers but, rather, civilian homes that have been hit repeatedly by airstrikes and tank fire.
In addition, there have been no recorded ‘secondary explosions’ after Israeli airstrikes on civilian areas, which would have taken place if explosive shells had been hidden in any of the targeted locations.