Tel Aviv: Tragedy struck in southern Gaza's Rafah this morning as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating blast, marking the deadliest incident for the IDF in the Strip since January, Times of Israel reported.

Among the fallen, Cpt Wassem Mahmoud, aged 23, a deputy company commander in the Combat Engineering Corps' 601st Battalion from Beit Jann, has been identified. The names of the remaining seven soldiers will be released following notification of their families.

Initial findings from an IDF investigation indicate that the soldiers were inside a Namer armoured combat engineering vehicle (CEV) when the explosion occurred. The incident took place around 5 am as the convoy, following an overnight offensive against Hamas in Rafah's Tel Sultan neighbourhood, was en route to secure buildings for rest, as reported by The Times of Israel.

The Namer CEV, positioned as the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. It remains unclear whether the blast resulted from a pre-planted bomb or if Hamas operatives directly placed an explosive device on the vehicle. Investigators are also considering whether explosives stored outside the CEV contributed to the intensity of the explosion.

According to the IDF, there was no exchange of gunfire during the incident, and the vehicle was in motion at the time of the explosion.

The deaths of these soldiers bring the total toll of IDF casualties during the ground offensive against Hamas and operations along the Gaza border to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed in a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also lost in the conflict, according to The Times of Israel.

The deadliest incident prior to today's tragedy occurred in January, when 21 soldiers perished in a blast triggered by Hamas RPG fire that resulted in the collapse of two buildings.

The IDF continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding today's devastating loss, emphasising the ongoing challenges and risks faced by military personnel operating in volatile regions, The Times of Israel reported.

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