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5 Israeli soldiers killed by friendly fire in northern Gaza

The Israeli military said Thursday that five soldiers were killed and seven injured in a friendly fire incident in northern Gaza, amid renewed battles in the area against regrouped Hamas militants.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had opened an investigation into the deadly incident, which it said happened when the soldiers were hit by tank cross-fire in Jabalia.

Three of those injured were in serious condition, the IDF added. The troops were members of the 202nd Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade.

“An initial investigation into the deaths of five IDF soldiers reveals that IDF tanks, located dozens of meters away, identified a weapon and fired shells at an IDF force nearby,” the IDF said in a statement.

“This force had entered the northern part of Gaza and occupied buildings along a logistic route. The tanks fired two shells for unclear reasons, resulting in seven more soldiers being injured, three severely.”

The statement added that the IDF “is probing why the shells were fired and if the soldiers were mistaken for armed militants.”

Seven months into its war aimed at eliminating Hamas, Israeli forces are again engaged in intense fighting in areas of northern Gaza the IDF said earlier had been cleared, renewing doubts over the government’s strategy in the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under growing pressure from the U.S. to lay out a plan for post-war Gaza, and on Wednesday he faced rare public criticism on the issue from within his own War Cabinet.

In a nationally televised statement, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant challenged Netanyahu over what he said was a refusal to discuss the issue. He said this would lead to Israel being forced to rule over the Palestinian enclave again, which he said he opposed. We must make tough decisions for the future of our country, favoring national priorities above all other possible considerations, even with the possibility of personal or political costs,” Gallant said.

Still, Netanyahu insists the focus must be on invading Rafah, where his troops have intensified operations since calling on residents of the city’s east to evacuate last week.

At least 600,000 people have been forced to flee parts of Gaza’s southernmost city, where more than one million Palestinians sought shelter, according to the United Nations, with another 100,000 people displaced in northern Gaza.

The U.N.’s top court opens two days of hearings on Thursday into South Africa’s call to halt Israeli operations in Rafah.

The slow increase in aid flowing into the strip over recent months could also be wiped out due to Israel’s assault on Rafah, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, with one critical aid crossing shut and another restricted.

The U.S. Central Command said early Thursday it had successfully anchored a temporary humanitarian pier to a beach in Gaza to increase the flow of aid.

“Trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days,” it said in a post on X.

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