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A spokesperson for the military said the soldiers died during an explosion as they were travelling in an armoured vehicle. PA

Eight Israeli soldiers killed near Rafah in deadliest attack on the country’s forces in months

The deaths come after ceasefire negotiations have failed to find common ground between Israeli and Hamas.

EIGHT ISRAELI SOLDIERS have been killed in southern Gaza in the deadliest attack on the country’s forces in months.

Only one of the dead troops was identified by the army. No further information was immediately available.

The deaths will likely fuel calls for a ceasefire and heighten Israeli public anger over ultra-Orthodox exemptions from the military.

Captain Wassem Mahmud, 23, and seven other soldiers “fell during operational activity in southern Gaza,” the military said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that the soldiers died during an explosion as they were travelling in an armoured vehicle.

The officer said the explosion struck near Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, where troops are engaged in fierce street battles with Palestinian militants.

Today’s losses were among the heaviest for the military since it began its ground offensive in Gaza on October 27.

Twenty-one soldiers were killed on January 22 when rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire hit a tank near two buildings where they were carrying out an operation, the military said at the time.

The buildings exploded as troops had planted explosives in them after the structures had been identified as “terrorist infrastructure” in the area, it said.

Saturday’s deaths take to 306 the military’s losses since October 27.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the U-backed ceasefire plan, saying that Hamas proposed changes to the terms.

Some of these changes were “workable” and some not, Blinken said without elaborating.

Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, who do not give a breakdown of civilians and fighters.

The war has also driven about 80% of the population of 2.3 million from their homes, and Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring in humanitarian aid, fueling widespread hunger.

Hamas is believed to be holding around 80 hostages and the remains of another 40.

With reporting by AFP

Press Association