The Israeli military says one of its soldiers has been captured by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. That is where a temporary cease-fire collapsed not long after it began on Friday.
Israel Defense Forces said 23-three-year-old Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin went missing in the southern city of Rafah around 9:30 a.m. local time. That was about 90 minutes after the humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas took effect.
The soldier’s condition was unknown. Two other Israeli troops died during an operation to find and destroy one of the tunnels – underground passageways -- that Hamas uses to enter Israel. The Israeli military says a firefight began with Hamas militants. A suicide bombing also took place. Several Palestinians were killed.
The Israeli military started shelling the southern Gaza Strip shortly after the attack. Local officials say at least 35 Palestinians were killed. Hamas militants also renewed its firing of rockets into southern Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement. It blamed Gaza militants for violating what was supposed to be a three-day cease-fire. The Israeli military said the cease-fire is officially over.
Robert Serry is a United Nations special official for the Middle East peace process. He said it would be a serious violation of the cease-fire if reports of the tunnel attack by the Gazan militants are true.
Josh Earnest serves as official spokesman for American president Barack Obama. The spokesman said the missing Israeli soldier should be returned immediately. He also said the Obama Administration condemns the violation of the cease-fire agreement. Mr. Earnest added that those who could influence the military organization of Hamas should pressure it to end the fighting.
Delegations from Israel and the Palestinians were expected to discuss the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Cairo. US officials were also to join the negotiations. But the French news agency AFP reported that Egyptian diplomats say the talks have been delayed.
Israeli leaders want Hamas to disarm its military. Hamas militants have sent thousands of rockets into Israeli territory in recent weeks. The Islamist group wants an end to Israel’s restrictions on Gaza. Hamas says Israel has prevented the people of Gaza from traveling out of the area.
Before the cease-fire took effect Friday, Gaza police reported heavy gunfire from Israeli tanks in northern and eastern Gaza. The loud exchange of fire between Israeli troops and militants was heard throughout Gaza City. Tank shells landed on homes in the city. Gaza police said Hamas fighters hit an Israeli tank with an anti-tank missile. The police also said the Hamas fighters attacked Israeli troops who came to rescue the tank crew. Police officials said fighting continued into the early morning hours.
More than 1,400 Palestinians have died in the last four weeks of fighting. Most of those killed were civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 61 Israeli soldiers have also died.
I’m Jonathan Evans