|Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Major Amotz Greenberg, a 45-year-old reserve soldier killed fighting a group of Palestinian militants who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from the center of the Gaza Strip, during his funeral in Hod Hasharon, near Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 20, 2014. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed overnight and early Sunday in clashes with Palestinian militants throughout the Gaza Strip, amid the Israeli army's ground incursion to the enclave, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed in a statement. (Xinhua/JINI)
JERUSALEM, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed overnight and early Sunday in clashes with Palestinian militants throughout the Gaza Strip, amid the Israeli army's ground incursion to the enclave, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed in a statement.
The IDF did not disclose the names of the fallen soldiers as the identification process was still not completed, yet said that they all belonged to the army's combatant Golani brigade, according to the statement.
The first fatal incident took place shortly after midnight, when seven soldiers were killed as the armored personnel vehicle was hit by anti-tank missiles, the Walla! news website reported.
Then, at about 1:20 a.m. (2230 GMT), an Israeli soldier was killed in a fire exchange with a militant. Less than an hour later another Israeli soldier was killed and one soldier was seriously injured in a similar fire exchange in the Gaza Strip.
Later on, an anti-tank missile was fired at an Israeli tank, killing three soldiers. Another soldier died in another incident. Eight soldiers injured in the clashes are hospitalized in varying conditions throughout the country.
Sunday's incidents put the death toll among Israeli soldiers at 18. Two soldiers were killed late Saturday and two more soldiers were killed early Saturday. On Friday, an Israeli soldier died from friendly fire due to mistaken identity.
Intense fighting was felt in the Gaza Strip on the 13th day of Operation Protective Edge, as the IDF bombarded the Shujaiya neighborhood in the central Strip, not far from where most of the fatal incidents took place. The IDF said in a statement more than 140 rockets were fired towards Israel from the neighborhood since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8.
According to the Palestinian health ministry, 60 Palestinians were killed in Shujaiya and overall 87 Palestinians were killed on Sunday. The IDF said it warned the residents of the neighborhood to evacuate their houses several days ago.
Hamas requested a 2-hour humanitarian truce in order to evacuate the victims. The military halted its attacks until 5:30 p. m. (1430 GMT) following an official request from the International Red Cross organization.
At least 130 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its ground incursion late Thursday, raising the overall death toll above 350 since the beginning of the operation. The number includes more than 76 children and 36 women, according to Palestinian health officials.
During the ground incursion, the IDF uncovered 40 tunnels in territories in Gaza and arrested 13 militants. Several dozen rockets were fired at central, south central and southern Israel on Sunday, no injuries were reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that the ground incursion's current focus is on destroying terror tunnels.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview to CNN that Israel has no plans of re-occupying the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu is set to convene his security cabinet at 9 p.m. Sunday (1800 GMT) in order to discuss further steps in the Gaza operation.
Despite ongoing attempts to reach a ceasefire agreement, no breakthrough was made. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to arrive in the Middle East on Monday to help promote a ceasefire agreement.
He will arrive in Cairo on Monday and reach Israel on Tuesday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is also expected to reach the area later this week.