A 34-year-old Indian-origin Israeli soldier was killed during fighting in the Gaza Strip as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) pushed deeper into the besieged territory amid mounting international pressure, particularly by the United States and the United Nations, to allow access to fuel and limit civilian casualties. The soldier has been identified as Master Sergeant Gil Daniels from Ashdod.
Daniels was killed on Tuesday and his funeral was held at the military cemetery in his hometown on Wednesday, according to Indian Jewish community members. “Israel has lost many soldiers in this vicious and cruel war, the best of its sons and daughters who stood up to fight for the honour of the entire nation of Israel. Today, we mourn the death of another IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldier Master Sgt (Res) Gil Daniels (34), son of Yoel and Mazal,” said the Indian Jewish Heritage Centre.
The Indian-origin soldier and member of the Bene Israel community had his roots in Maharashtra. He studied at Makif Gimel High School as a member of the class of 2007 and completed his Masters at the School of Pharmacy at Hebrew University.
“With immense pain, we the members of the 61st group of the class of 2007 mourn his death…his smile is remembered by all his friends,” a classmate of Gil said. Daniels’ death comes as some 86 Israeli soldiers, including four Indian-origin soldiers, have been reportedly killed in the Gaza Strip since the IDF launched its ground offensive in Gaza.
Israeli strikes in southern Gaza spark concerns
As two months have passed since the deadly Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, Israeli forces have now struck the southern Gaza town of Rafah twice overnight, sparking concerns that there are no more places for Palestinians to flee. The renewal of fighting happened after a week-long truce, where Hamas released 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Heavy fighting in and around the southern city of Khan Younis has displaced tens of thousands of people in a territory where over 80 per cent of the population has already fled their homes and cut most of Gaza off from deliveries of food, water and other vital aid. Rafah, normally home to around 280,000 people, is already hosting more than 470,000 who fled from other parts of Gaza.
Israel has maintained that it seeks to crush Hamas’ military capabilities and eliminate its 16-year rule in the Strip, following the October 7 attack that ignited the war. Troops have pushed into Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, after previous incursions in the Gaza City and Shifa hospital.
On Wednesday, an Israeli strike levelled a home in Rafah, reportedly killing 20 people, including women and children. The strikes have once again stretched the dire humanitarian conditions of the Gaza Strip, with hospitals overflowing with the deceased and wounded.
Israel’s campaign has killed more than 16,200 people in Gaza — most of them women and children — and wounded more than 42,000, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. An estimated 138 hostages remain in Gaza, mostly soldiers and civilian men.
Israel slams UN chief’s call for ceasefire
Meanwhile, Israel has issued a scathing critique of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ after the latter used a rarely exercised power to warn the Security Council of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe” and urge members to demand a ceasefire.
“The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis,” Guterres said of the war that created “appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma”.
In response, Israel said that Guterres’ move was tantamount to support for Hamas and endorsement of its deadly attacks. Isreali Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that “Guterres’ tenure is a danger to world peace”.
“His request to activate Article 99 and the call for a cease-fire in Gaza constitutes support of the Hamas terrorist organisation and an endorsement of the murder of the elderly, the abduction of babies and the rape of women. Anyone who supports world peace must support the liberation of Gaza from Hamas,” Cohen wrote.
(with inputs from agencies)