10 IDF soldiers, including battalion commanders, killed in Gaza battle

Ashdod supermarket hit by rocket shrapnel • Tensions continue in North, W. Bank

IDF soldiers operate in Shejaia, in northern Gaza, on December 13, 2023 (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Ten IDF soldiers, including several senior officers, were killed and six wounded in one of the bloodiest battles of the IDF’s invasion of Gaza, the army announced early Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, and IDF Southern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkleman all eulogized the dead as tragic heroes, while maintaining a broadly optimistic tone about the war’s future course.

Although the battle of Shejaia in northern Gaza is going generally well for the IDF – about 350 terrorists have been killed – and the military believes it will have most of the area clear of Hamas’s major forces by the weekend, at around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, IDF forces were hit by a multi-round ambush in inner-Shejaia.

A mix of units 53 and 51 of the IDF, including both Golani and engineering personnel, were looking to clear a certain structure and its surrounding areas when they came under a barrage of gunfire and improvised explosives.

It is unclear whether the initial explosives were thrown or set off remotely.

 Israeli soldiers at the Jabalya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, during an Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, December 12, 2023 (credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers at the Jabalya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, during an Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, December 12, 2023 (credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

How the tragic IDF battle with high losses played out

IDF soldiers were under attack from two different directions.

The ambushing Hamas forces had video surveillance of the area and were deployed at multiple high points in multiple structures.

An initial force of four IDF soldiers was completely cut off and lost communications with general IDF forces.

Realizing this, several IDF commanders, including Lt. Col. Tomer Grinberg, commander of the 13th Battalion Golani Brigade, jumped into action to try to save the four soldiers.

They did not know whether the soldiers were alive, wounded, or whether their Hamas attackers were already trying to drag them away into a tunnel as hostages or seized dead bodies for later negotiations. They did know that Hamas had a nearby tunnel that it was using as part of their defense and operations center in the area.

IDF forces approached the fighting from three different directions of the courtyard and different structures. One set of these forces came through a similar area to where the original forces had been to try to get to them faster, and were re-ambushed by another set of explosives.

Another set of IDF forces came from the opposite side to gain some surprise and outflank the Hamas forces.

Eventually, IDF forces succeeded in getting to the original four soldiers, all of whom, as it turned out, were dead. Notably, the IDF was able to secure and rescue their bodies.

In the process of attempting the rescue, three different sets of soldiers were ambushed, losing two soldiers, then two more, and yet another in different parts of the chaotic fighting.

While the entire episode lasted two to three hours, many of the IDF forces who were killed, including in the second round of the ambushes, were killed very quickly and early into the incursion.

Eventually, the IDF was also able to bring heavy firepower onto the area from Unit 188 to end the battle.

It appears that some or all of the ambushers may still have fled and escaped, but the position they were holding has been taken.

Top IDF officials said that many such positions in Shejaia have already been abandoned and the IDF is often able to easily collect weapons and intelligence from them. This ambush was more indicative of the earlier days of battle in Shejaia in early December, they noted.

Facing criticism that it should have used air strikes on the Hamas position without sending in IDF forces, the IDF said that not every structure in Gaza can be bombed and that also many specific areas give the IDF huge intelligence value, such as maps of Hamas forces, and including key Hamas terrorists who often surrender and can be interrogated.

The names of the IDF's fallen heroes:

These are the 10 officers and soldiers who fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip last night:

11th Reserve Commando Brigade:

• Col. Yitzhak Ben Bassat, 44, from Sdeh Yaakov, commander

Golani Brigade:

• Lt.-Col. Tomer Grinberg, 35, from Almog, 13th Battalion commander

• Maj. Roei Meldasi, 23, from Afula, 13th Battalion company commander

• Maj. Moshe Avram Bar-On, 23, from Ra'anana, 51st Battalion company commander

• Capt. Liel Hayo, 22, from Shoham, 51st Battalion platoon commander

• Sgt. Achia Daskal, 19, from Haifa, 51st Battalion

• Sgt. Eran Aloni, 19, from Ofakim, 51st Battalion

Special Rescue Tactical Unit (669):

• Maj. Ben Shelly, 26, from Kidron, platoon commander

• Maj. Rom Hecht, 20, from Givatayim

 School of Combat Engineering:

• Sgt. Oriya Yaakov, 19, from Ashkelon, Battalion 614

Continued heavy fighting in southern Gaza

The IDF issued additional updates throughout Wednesday about its progress in Gaza, including that around 100 Hamas terrorists had been killed in a single series of battles in southern Gaza.

There are increasing numbers of IDF updates about southern Gaza compared to last week, when information was only flowing about northern Gaza battles.

The IDF’s greater openness about southern Gaza battles, including more examples of defeating Hamas cells staging ambushes near mosques and schools, likely signifies substantial progress in Khan Younis and its surroundings.

Simultaneously, the IDF and the political class have gone silent about efforts to locate or eliminate Hamas’s top officials – Yahya Sinwar and Muhammad Deif.

Recently, The Jerusalem Post learned that it is possible that the IDF will finish the “main war” by taking control over most of Gaza, even if it has not yet resolved the issue of Hamas’s leadership and the remaining Israeli hostages.

Hamas maintained rocket fire on Israel’s South, including pieces of an exploded rocket hitting a supermarket in Ashdod and causing significant damage, though there were no wounded.

The number of rockets and sirens per day continues to drop, with sirens down to an average of around 30 per day from hundreds at the start of the war, then down to 100, 70, 50, and now even lower.

In the North, Hezbollah and the IDF exchanged several rounds of fire again, with Hezbollah firing rockets at Kiryat Shmona, Yiftach, and other areas.

The IDF responded with multiple rounds of artillery and air strikes.

There were no specific signs of an additional escalation between the sides as there were on some other days earlier this week.

A 30-hour operation in Jenin concluded on Wednesday with four IDF wounded, but the IDF said it had made significant, broad progress against terror infrastructure, including underground, and killed several terrorists.