Israel suffers heaviest combat losses since October, diplomatic isolation


Israel announced its worst combat losses for more than a month on Wednesday after an ambush in the ruins of Gaza, and faced growing diplomatic isolation as civilian deaths mounted and a humanitarian catastrophe worsened in the Palestinian territory.
Intense fighting was under way both north and south Gaza, a day after the United Nations demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. U.S. President Joe Biden said Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing of civilians was costing international support.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military would fight on despite international pressure for a ceasefire.
“We’re continuing until the end, until victory, until Hamas is annihilated,” he told soldiers in Gaza over radio. “I say this in the face of great pain but also in the face of international pressures. Nothing will stop us.”
Israel reported 10 of its soldiers killed in the past 24 hours, including a full colonel commanding a forward base and a lieutenant-colonel commanding a regiment. It was the worst one-day loss since 15 soldiers were killed on Oct. 31.
Most of the deaths came in the Shejaia district of Gaza City in the north, where troops were ambushed trying to rescue another group of soldiers who had attacked Hamas fighters in a building, the military said.
Hamas said the incident showed that Israeli forces could never subdue Gaza: “The longer you stay there, the greater the bill of your deaths and losses will be, and you will emerge from it carrying the tail of disappointment and loss, God willing.”
Israel had global sympathy when it launched a campaign to annihilate the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza after fighters stormed across the border fence on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and seizing 240 hostages.
But since then, Israel has besieged the enclave and laid much of it to waste. Gaza’s health ministry said on Wednesday at least 18,608 people have been killed and 50,594 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7. Many thousands more are feared lost in the rubble or beyond the reach of ambulances.
Warplanes again bombed the length of Gaza and aid officials said the arrival of winter rain worsened conditions for hundreds of thousands sleeping rough in makeshift tents. The vast majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been made homeless.
In Rafah, in Gaza’s south where hundreds of thousands of people have sought shelter, the bodies of a family killed in an overnight air strike were being laid out in the rain in bloodied white shrouds, including several small children. One, the size of a newborn, was wrapped in a pink blanket.