Israel has rushed a new armoured vehicle capable of shooting down incoming missiles to the front line in Gaza, months before it was due to become operational.
A photograph released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) showed the Eitan personnel carrier performing its first combat mission against Hamas terrorists.
The vehicle was used in the Battle of Zikim on Oct 7, when the Islamic terror group overran a small IDF training base.
An Israeli unit used the vehicle to reach the scene of the fighting, on Israel’s western coast, killing Hamas terrorists on the beach before moving forward to support other units.
It was claimed the all-terrain vehicle hit a speed of 75 mph, higher than the vehicle’s claimed top speed of 56mph, as it raced to the base, later manoeuvring on the sands of Zikim Beach, where five Hamas gunmen were killed.
Following the attack, Tamir Yada’i, the head of Israel’s ground forces, fast-tracked the Eitan into battle plans for the invasion of the Gaza Strip, despite the personnel carrier not being due to enter into service until next year.
An Israeli soldier told the Walla news outlet: “We reached the area the fastest. This is our first advantage.
“Then we went to the settlements. We ran into terrorist vehicles and didn’t feel anything. It’s a powerful tool.
“We broke through gates and fences. Then we helped evacuate the wounded and supply the troops.”
Eitan, named after the Hebrew word for strong, is an eight-wheeled armoured personnel carrier armed with a 30mm turret and fitted with armour from Israel’s Merkava tanks.
One of the most advanced armoured vehicles on earth
It is one of the most advanced armoured vehicles on earth, featuring heavy armour and an assortment of weapons and sensors.
Adding to its defences is the Iron Fist active protection system, or ADS, which monitors the vehicle’s surroundings, and is capable of detecting and intercepting enemy anti-tank rockets and missiles before they can strike the vehicle.
The Eitan was designed to replace the ageing US-made M113 APC used by Israel.
Israeli forces have completed their encirclement of Gaza City, cutting off the Hamas-controlled north from the south of the enclave.
Its troops this week began pressing into the city, aiming to capture the Al-Shifa hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza.
The IDF says Hamas has hidden a network of underground military complexes beneath the hospital, which houses the terrorist group’s fighters, a command and control centre, as well as weapon manufacturing sites and munitions stores.
Israeli forces have surrounded the hospital on three sides, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War.
The ground operation by the IDF has utilised an array of weapons, including tanks, armoured vehicles, fighter jets, helicopters and drones.
The Armada Rotta blog, which tracks Israeli vehicle losses using open source data, estimates that the country has lost 132 vehicles, including 15 Merkava tanks.
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