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RPG fired at tank triggers explosion killing Israeli soldiers in Gaza, IDF says

The Israeli army says 21 soldiers have been killed in central Gaza - the deadliest day for its forces since the war began.

It said the soldiers were preparing explosives to demolish two buildings on Monday when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a nearby tank, setting off the explosion prematurely and causing the buildings to collapse on them.

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"We are still studying and investigating the details of the event and the reasons for the explosion," Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not end the fighting until Hamas had been wiped out.

He said it was "one of the hardest days since the outbreak of the war", in a post on X on Tuesday.

"In the name of our heroes, and for our own lives, we will not stop fighting until absolute victory."

Earlier, the military said three soldiers were killed in a separate attack in southern Gaza.

The assault came as Israeli forces pushed deep into western Khan Younis in Gaza, with an air, sea and land bombardment that included storming a hospital and arresting medical staff, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al Qidra told Reuters news agency.

The 24 fatalities means it was the deadliest day for the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza since the war started in October.

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At least 50 people were killed on Sunday night in Khan Younis, Mr Qidra said, adding the sieges at medical facilities meant rescuers could not reach the dead and wounded.

The US has called on Israel to protect innocent Palestinians and medical staff.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that Israel had a right to defend itself, but added: "We expect them to do so in accordance with international law and to protect innocent people in hospitals, medical staff and patients as well, as much as possible."

Israel is under growing pressure over its war against Hamas inside Gaza - launched in the wake of a Hamas terror attack on Israeli soil on 7 October in which 1,200 people died and 240 were taken hostage - because of the large number of civilian deaths.

It has repeatedly claimed Hamas is using hospitals in Gaza as military positions.

Hamas and medical staff have denied this.

The Israeli military has recently intensified strikes on Khan Younis in southern Gaza - which it believes is where top Hamas commanders are holed up.

The Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza said on Tuesday at least 25,490 people have been killed and 63,354 have been injured since the conflict began.

Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas - the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules Gaza and is sworn to Israel's destruction - since its multi-pronged attack last year.

Hamas militants crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented surprise assault, holding Israeli towns and military posts under siege, targeting a dance music festival, and killing and abducting civilians.