JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed in heavy fighting in a Gaza City neighborhood.
The soldiers from the Golani Brigade were killed since late Saturday night in Shujaiya, the Israel Defense Forces announced Sunday evening, bringing the death toll of Israeli soldiers since the launch late last week of the Gaza ground operation to 18.
In Shujaiya, seven of the soldiers died when their armored personnel carrier was hit by an anti-tank missile. One was an American citizen, Max Steinberg, a Los Angeles native who joined the Israel Defense Forces in 2012, according to the Jewish Journal. He lived in Beersheba.
Palestinian reports put the number of Gazans dead in the fighting in the area at more than 60. At least 360 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge 13 days ago.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview on the NBC news show “Meet the Press” defended Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza.
“I don’t think any nation in the world would sit there while rockets are bombarding it, and you know that there are tunnels from which terrorists have come … in an obvious effort to try to kidnap people, then hold them for ransom,” Kerry told host David Gregory.
“The fact is, that is unacceptable by any standard, anywhere in the world. And Israel has every right in the world to defend itself.”
Kerry said he was hopeful that a cease-fire could be put into place, but added that “you cannot reward terrorism.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday morning that Israel is taking “whatever action is necessary to stop this insane situation.”
“They’re not only targeting our cities, they’re deliberately firing thousands of rockets,” he said. “They have already fired 2,000 rockets in the last few days on our cities.”
Netanyahu said he is “sad” for every civilian casualty.
“They’re not intended. This is the difference between us,” the Israeli leader said. “The Hamas deliberately targets civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead the better.”