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Day 226: IDF announces death of two more soldiers in Gaza, Palestinians continue to evacuate Rafah

Israel reports increased humanitarian aid to Gaza via crossings as more arrives at US-built pier

Israeli forces in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

The IDF announced on Sunday the deaths of two soldiers killed while fighting in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The soldiers were identified as Staff Sgt. Nachman Meir Haim Vaknin (20) from Eilat and Staff Sgt. Noam Bittan (20)from Yad Rambam. Both served in the IDF's Givati Brigade Reconnaissance Unit.

Vaknin and Bittan were killed in an explosion inside a booby-trapped tunnel shaft in Rafah, an incident that also left two soldiers and an officer from the same reconnaissance unit seriously injured.

With the announcement of their deaths, the number of troops killed in the IDF’s ground operations in Gaza and on the border area rose to 282. 

In a separate incident in Rafah, a reservist from the 5832nd Combat Engineering Battalion was seriously wounded after his armored bulldozer was hit by an RPG. 

The IDF reported that soldiers from the Givati Brigade had eliminated more than 80 terrorists in Rafah over the past few days, while soldiers of the Tzabar Battalion located large quantities of weapons, including dozens of rifles, grenades and ammunition. 

Givati ​​Reconnaissance also located significant underground tunnel infrastructure in Rafah. On Friday, Israel announced that it had discovered around 700 tunnel shafts in Rafah so far, with 50 tunnels that crossed over into Egypt. 

Dr. Gilad Noam made the announcement during the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearing on Friday, which addressed the request for an emergency ceasefire in Gaza. 

“These tunnels were used by Hamas to supply itself with weapons and ammunition,” Dr. Noam told the World Court. He said the tunnels could be used “to smuggle out of Gaza, hostages or Hamas senior operatives.” 

The IDF reported that dozens of tunnel shafts are currently “being investigated and dismantled.”

The Israeli military also announced the killing of several terror squads during intense fighting in Jabaliya, located in northern Gaza, in areas “where the IDF has not operated in the past.” 

According to the IDF, there were no injuries to IDF troops during the operation. 

The United Nations announced that 800,000 Palestinians were “forced to flee” Rafah as the IDF expands operations in the last Hamas stronghold. 

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini posted a statement to 𝕏, noting, “800,000 people are on the road having been forced to flee since the Israeli forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May.”

Lazzarini wrote that people are fleeing to areas without water supplies or adequate sanitation, however, satellite evidence indicates that many civilians are fleeing to the expanded humanitarian zone al-Mawasi. 

Israel has stated an operation in Rafah, where Hamas’ final intact battalions are deployed, is necessary to achieve its objectives. It also believes that many of the remaining 124 hostages could be held in tunnels or other facilities in Rafah. 

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reported that 1,050 humanitarian aid trucks were inspected and transferred to the Gaza Strip through the Israeli land crossings last week.

COGAT also said 204 trucks containing flour had been delivered to World Food Program (WFP) bakeries for making bread, while hundreds of large multi-person tents purchased by Israel had been delivered to the al-Mawasi humanitarian zone.

Over 300 pallets of food had been delivered via the U.S.-built Gaza pier, according to media reports, with more deliveries expected in the next few days via a U.S. facility in Cyprus.

On Sunday morning, Palestinian sources reported several deaths from Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip, including Jabaliya, al-Nuseirat refugee camp, Khan Younis and Rafah. 

According to Palestinian reports, Zahar Hamed al-Wali, a senior Hamas police commander, was killed along with his deputy, Jihad al-Hamidi, in a strike on Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

The WAFA news site, affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, claimed the IDF struck the al-Awda Hospital in Jabaliya. At publication time, the IDF had not yet commented. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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