Three soldiers from the elite Maglan unit were killed in a booby-trapped tunnel shaft in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
The army named them as St.-Sgt. Matan Gotlib, 21, from Rishon Lezion, St.-Sgt.Omer Hay, 21, from Savyon, and St.-Sgt. Guy Algranati, 20, from Tel Aviv.
The latest fatalities brought the military death toll to 56.
An additional 27 soldiers were wounded Wednesday.
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The army said more than 50 rockets were fired from the coastal enclave into Israel on Wednesday, causing no reported casualties or damage.
Battles between Hamas and the IDF continued, and the army killed dozens of terrorists who attempted to hamper its work to discover and destroy tunnels. The army destroyed five tunnel shafts on Wednesday.
During the day, a Givati infantry unit destroyed a tunnel shaft, and another unit uncovered several additional shafts across the Strip.
Paratroopers detected two terrorists emerging from a shaft they found, and opened fire at them, killing the gunmen.
Givati soldiers, working with the combat engineers, detected 10 terrorists who attacked them with an antitank missile, causing light wounds among two soldiers.
The Israel Air Force was dispatched, and it launched an air strike on the cell, killing its members.
The air force also struck five terrorists who were seen planting an explosive in southern Gaza.
Some 80 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets were destroyed by the air force, and the branch’s officials said it could maintain the strike rate for many days to come.
Targets included an attack tunnel, underground rocket launchers and facilities used by Hamas.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon held a security evaluation in the evening. At its conclusion, he announced the IDF is working “with full force,” adding that the air force struck many targets overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“At the same time, we are making satisfactory progress in destroying terror tunnels, and we are continuing to exact a very heavy price on Hamas,” the defense minister said.
Addressing an audio recording
released by Hamas’s military wing chief, Muhammad Deif, Ya’alon said, “One speech or another recorded inside civilian facilities where children and women are used as human shields won’t change reality. And the reality is that Hamas absorbed many losses, and lost many assets.
“It has hundreds of killed terrorists, some of which it is hiding, and many terrorism infrastructures have been destroyed, including weapons, rockets and missiles, command centers, the homes of terrorists and tunnels.”
Israel is not constrained by time in its offensive, Ya’alon said, and will reach “every place we know about that has tunnels or tunnel shafts, even if that means we deepen our presence in territories we have not yet been in.”
Earlier, the IDF announced a unilateral humanitarian respite, from 3 to 7 p.m., in areas of Gaza where ground forces are not active.
The army struck more than 80 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip overnight.
The targets included mosques being used by Hamas. One mosque was used as a command center by Hamas while another had been in use as an observation post to monitor IDF troop movements. That mosque was in close proximity to a children’s playground.
Troops destroyed three terrorist tunnels and discovered another containing large quantities of AK-47 assault rifles and grenades.
A tank force operating in Gaza discovered a weapons cache inside a mosque, also overnight Tuesday. The arsenal included a “Coronet” antitank missile launcher, which was loaded and ready for use. Troops also found explosives and maps.
The IDF destroyed three tunnels, killed 20 terrorists and struck more than 200 targets from the air in the past 24 hours in Gaza, an army source said. It found several additional tunnel shafts, army sources said.
Most of the air strikes targeted weapons storage facilities.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Givati infantry force opened fire on five terrorists who surfaced from a tunnel that led to a mosque.
All five were killed in the firefight.
Hamas cells attempted to fire antitank missiles at a tank from the 401st Armored Brigade, which returned fire.
A total of nine terrorists were killed in firefights on Tuesday.
Large numbers of weapons caches were seized by the IDF inside civilian homes and in the field, including rocket launchers.
The IDF has struck more than 4,000 targets since the start of offensive, and has stepped up attacks between Tuesday and Wednesday, hitting 200 targets overnight.
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