The Israeli military believes one of its soldiers was captured as a planned 72-hour cease-fire fell apart just hours into the deal, a spokesman said Friday. The lull in fighting collapsed in an early morning exchange of fire that left at least five Israeli soldiers and 40 Gaza residents dead.
“The [Israeli Defense Forces] is currently conducting intelligence efforts and extensive searches in order to locate the missing soldier,” the IDF said in a statement, after Israel accused Hamas of breaking the cease-fire agreement by firing rockets on Israeli forces in southern Gaza.
Lt. Col Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman, identified the missing soldier as Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23. Lerner said the soldier, from Kfar Saba, was captured early on Friday as the Israeli military was "implementing" the cease-fire and that two IDF soldiers were killed during the suspected capture.
Israel and Hamas both blamed one another for Friday's unraveling. The deal was brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and it marks at least the fourth humanitarian cease-fire to have collapsed within hours since Israel's latest ground operation in Gaza began earlier this month.
Kerry said on Friday that "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s attack, which led to the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the apparent abduction of another.
"Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message," Kerry added.
The health ministry in Gaza reports more than 1,450 Palestinians have been killed and 8,200 wounded in the violence in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz reports. At least 61 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died in the conflict. Israel began a bombing campaign in Gaza on July 8 followed by a ground invasion with the objective of destroying tunnels that connect Gaza with Israel and are often used by militants to stage attacks and kidnappings within Israel.
It's yet unclear how the Israeli soldier's capture, if confirmed, may change the dynamics of Israel's operations in Gaza.