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Tragedy in Gaza: 8 Israeli soldiers die in explosion during fighting in Rafah

IDF names Druze officer Wassem Mahmoud as one of eight victims

Israeli soldiers operating in Rafah, southern Gaza, June 15, 2024 (Photo: IDF)

Eight Israeli soldiers died when their combat vehicle was hit by an explosive charge during fighting in the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces announced on Saturday evening.

Out of the eight, the only one to be named at the time of publication was Captain Wassem Mahmoud (23), a deputy company commander in the Combat Engineering Corps from the Druze town of Beit Jann in northern Israel.

“The Druze community repeatedly pays a very heavy price, unbearably heavy, in the war,” stated the head of the Druze community, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif.

“The late officer Wassem Mahmoud … joins a long list of Druze martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the security of the country since the outbreak of the war. How symbolic this sacrifice is on the eve of the holiday,” Tarif wrote, referring to the start of the Druze and Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the “Feast of Sacrifice.”

“Once again we discover on the battlefield the partnership and the sharing of the burden, on the battlefield, and in loss. This partnership and equality must also exist in everyday life, but things are not like that. The members of the community should be equal and partners not only in battle and grief, but also in life,” Tarif wrote.

According to findings of an initial investigation, a “Namer”-type Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) of the Engineering Corps exploded after being hit by an explosive charge.

Army Radio reported that the IDF said it wasn’t yet sure what type of charge was being used.

The explosion was reportedly so massive that all eight soldiers on the APC were most likely killed instantly.

Because the APC was an engineering vehicle, it contained mines and other explosives which intensified the explosion and caused secondary explosions.

According to KAN News, the APC was operating in an area that had not yet been cleared. Therefore, the APC could not immediately be recovered and continued burning for several hours.

The APC was traveling in a convoy on the way to a compound where the soldiers were meant to spend the night at the end of a day of fighting. It was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, with many other vehicles traveling along the same road before without being hit.

The IDF is, therefore, reportedly investigating whether Hamas terrorists observed the convoy and remotely activated the charge, or if a “sticky” charge had been covertly attached to the side of the APC.

The army stated that contrary to rumors circulating on Israeli social media, as well as claims made by Hamas, the APC was hit while it was moving, not standing still.

The IDF also confirmed that the APC had not been struck by an anti-tank missile and that there had been no active fighting at the time of the explosion.

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

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