TEL AVIV, Israel–13 soldiers in the Israel Defense Force’s Golani Brigade, an elite infantry unit, were killed early Sunday after fighting with Hamas terrorists in Gaza, bringing the total number of IDF soldiers killed during Operation Protection Edge to 18.
According to IDF officials, two of the soldiers killed had U.S. citizenship. Seven of the soldiers were killed when an anti-tank missile was reportedly fired from a house, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news.
“We’re aware that there were more fatalities in the last 24 hours than we’re used to, but we’re determined to stand by our objectives. I’m proud of the work that our boys are doing, and we will continue with the operation until our mission is completed,” said IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz Sunday evening.
An Israeli intelligence officer speaking on condition of anonymity told BuzzFeed that the IDF plans on expanding its operation into Gaza:
“We are no longer looking at just dismantling the tunnel network [from Gaza to Israel]. The goals of Operation Defensive Edge are now to cripple Hamas, so they will not be able to strike us again in a few years,” said the officer. He also said the offensive into Gaza was likely to now last “several weeks,” and that the IDF was contemplating the creation of a one-mile “buffer zone” into Gaza. He continued, “We may suffer heavy losses doing this, but their losses will be heavier, I can assure you.”
Israel has now struck over 341 targets since Sunday morning, according to IDF data.