“We are at war, and in war the other side puts up a fight. We are taking strong action against them and we intend to win. We win every encounter,” Col. Uri Gordin, the commander of the Nahal Brigade, told reporters on Tuesday.
Gordin, a former commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal, assumed command over the Nahal Brigade two months ago. On Thursday he led his troops into northern Gaza.
“The brigade has targeted many terrorists and destroyed a lot of infrastructure, starting with ammunition stores, all the way to tunnels and other [Hamas] infrastructure,” Gordin said.
“The soldiers are fighting strong, with steadfast spirits. I think that these soldiers’ parents, siblings and friends have a lot to be proud of.
“We have excellent youth. It is a generation with a bright future, a group that is successful in eliminating Hamas on its own turf and destroying tunnels designed to attack Israeli citizens. We have quite a few casualties, with two soldiers killed [from the Nahal Brigade]. I regret each death.
“We will continue fighting until we complete our mission. We are highly motivated to restore security to the residents of the south. In terms of mapping and destroying the tunnels, we have not completed the task yet, but we will get there.”
Meanwhile, two Armored Corps officers were killed Tuesday as the Gaza ground operation continued for a sixth day, raising the IDF death toll to 29. Dmitry Levitas, a platoon commander, was killed by sniper fire. Company commander Nathan Cohen, 23, was also killed.
One Golani soldier, Oron Shaul, has been declared missing.
Also Tuesday, a foreign agricultural worker was killed when mortar shells were fired into a greenhouse in the Eshkol region in southern Israel.
The Iron Dome defense system intercepted 16 rockets from Gaza throughout the day out of at least 55 fired. One rocket scored a direct hit, destroying a house in Yehud. There were no casualties.
The Israel Air Force struck at least 236 targets in Gaza, including 100 targets in Shujayyia, in the span of one hour overnight Monday. According to Palestinian media, 639 people have been killed and over 4,000 have been wounded since the start of the operation on July 8.
Over the last few days, the fighting has concentrated mainly in the Shujaiyya province of Gaza. The IAF dropped 20 one-ton bombs on the neighborhood over the course of the night, with IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz saying, “Hamas has sustained a significant hit in Shujaiyya.”
“I’m not saying that this battle is over,” he said. “We have enough soldiers and enough presence in the field, but the reports that the Hamas defensive efforts are in trouble are accurate.”
The decision to massively bomb Shujaiyya was made after two days of bloody fighting there, during which Golani troops faced anti-tank missile attacks, bunkers and booby-trapped houses.
The aim of the one-ton bombs, dropped only 250 meters (273 yards) from the Israeli soldiers on the ground, is to clear their path to allow them to advance toward tunnel openings, through which the tunnels are ultimately destroyed.
Some experts contend that these bombs were used too late, and that if they had been used before the ground forces entered, lives would have been spared. In response, a senior IDF officer said Tuesday: “It is easy to be wise in hindsight. It is very problematic to define bombing policy in Gaza. We did not want to harm civilians. Excessive bombing could undermine the entire operation. That is the Gaza challenge. Fire power is not the answer everywhere in the Gaza Strip.
“In order to avoid a Shujaiyya 2,it was decided that the only way to allow the forces to confront the tunnels was to address the infrastructure. Since almost all civilians have evacuated Shujaiyya, it became possible to use more force in a less surgical manner. It was a dramatic aerial operation that has never been done before in Israel, bombing within 250 meters of our soldiers,” he said.