Funerals were held across Israel on Tuesday after 10 IDF soldiers were killed in incidents across the Gaza Strip on Monday, as the Israeli death toll climbed to 56, including 53 soldiers. The IDF fatalities included four soldiers killed in a mortar strike on the Eshkol region and five who were killed by a Hamas gunmen who emerged from an attack tunnel near the kibbutz of Nahal Oz and fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF watch tower.
Hours after the IDF fatalities, the Gaza Strip suffered some of the heaviest bombing and shelling yet of the 22-day campaign, as the Palestinian death toll climbed to over 1,100 killed and thousands wounded, according to officials in Gaza. The IDF said they struck 70 targets overnight between Monday and Thursday, including the empty home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
During the overnight shelling, a rocket salvo was launched at central Israel around 2:30am, the first time during the operation that late night long-range rockets had been fired at the city, catching its residents by surprise, though no one was hurt.
As news of the IDF losses began to trickle out Monday night, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu gave a press conference to address the nation, in which he said little, but cautioned that the campaign could stretch on for some time.
“There is no war more just than this one,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel “won’t be deterred from fighting for our home and citizens” and that Israel is prepared for an extended operation.
At the same time, the Israeli media has been full of voices calling for clarity on the goals of the operation. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that destroying the Hamas attack tunnels and ensuring long-term quiet remain the central goals of the operation, but he has given no indication that he would be willing to adopt a more ambitious, long-term operation to disarm Hamas entirely, an effort that could potentially require Israel to re-occupy the Gaza Strip–an undertaking that would likely cost Israel dearly in blood and treasure. Meanwhile, an unnamed IDF officer was quoted in the Israeli press as saying that they have attained the goals of the campaign, though as of late afternoon Tuesday night, the army was still awaiting orders, ready to expand the ground operation if ordered to do so.
Also on Tuesday, it was reported that Hamas has expressed interest in a 24-hour truce, though the organization has denied any such agreement. PLO official Yasser Abd Rabbo was quoted as saying that a unilateral 72-hour ceasefire had been agreed to by all Palestinian factions and there were ready to declare the ceasefire, though Hamas denied that any such understanding had been reached.