Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in a devastating explosion in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday morning. This marks the deadliest day for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza in over six months, highlighting the escalating conflict and the severe risks faced by the military.

The IDF reported that the soldiers were traveling in a convoy of Namer armored combat engineering vehicles (CEV) when an explosion struck their vehicle around 5 a.m. The blast, which resulted in no survivors from the affected vehicle, has triggered a thorough investigation by the military. The initial probe is examining whether the explosion was caused by a pre-planted bomb, an anti-tank missile, or an explosive device directly placed on the CEV by Hamas operatives.

Only one of the fallen soldiers, Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, from Beit Jann, has been publicly identified. The families of the other seven soldiers have been notified, and their identities are expected to be released soon.

IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari announced the establishment of a team of experts from the Defense Ministry and IDF to investigate the incident comprehensively. "Following this difficult incident, a team of experts will examine the armored vehicle and all the details of the incident until we reach findings," Hagari stated in a press conference.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his deep sorrow over the loss, emphasizing the necessity of continuing the war despite the heavy cost. "Their deaths are a heartbreaking price in our just war of the defense of the homeland," Netanyahu said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also conveyed his condolences, noting the profound impact of the news. "The pain is great, my heart and thoughts are with their families," he shared on social media.

The explosion in Rafah occurred during an IDF operation targeting Hamas militants. The convoy, part of the 401st Armored Brigade, had successfully engaged and killed approximately 50 gunmen in the Tel Sultan neighborhood before the incident. The IDF continues to assess whether the stored explosives on the CEV contributed to the magnitude of the blast.

Additionally, another IDF soldier, Sergeant Yair Roitman, 19, succumbed to injuries sustained earlier in the week during a separate operation in Rafah. This incident, involving a booby-trapped building, had already resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and serious injuries to six others.

This incident raises the total number of IDF casualties in the current ground offensive against Hamas to 309, including a police officer killed during a hostage rescue mission. The escalating conflict and rising death toll are likely to intensify calls for a ceasefire and increase public scrutiny over military operations.

The IDF continues its operations in Rafah, targeting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad sites. On Saturday, the Commando Brigade raided several locations, killing multiple gunmen and uncovering significant weapon caches. Concurrently, the military reported a rocket launched from Gaza striking an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no injuries.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for numerous rocket attacks, further escalating tensions. These attacks include five rockets launched on Friday night from a designated humanitarian zone in Gaza, impacting areas near Kibbutz Kissufim and causing sirens to sound in surrounding towns.

The ongoing conflict in Gaza escalated significantly after the October 7 massacre, where thousands of Hamas-led militants crossed into Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking 251 hostages. Since then, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims over 37,000 people have been killed, a figure that includes both civilians and combatants, although these numbers are difficult to verify independently.

Israel remains steadfast in its goal to dismantle Hamas' military and governing capabilities, aiming to eliminate the threat posed by the organization. However, indirect talks for an extended truce and the release of hostages are also ongoing, highlighting the complex and multifaceted nature of the conflict.