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Israeli soldier missing as Gaza fighting rages on




BY TIA GOLDENBERG AND KARIN LAUB

JERUSALEM (AP) -- An Israeli soldier is missing following a deadly battle in the Gaza Strip, a defense official said Tuesday, as Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of targets along the coastal strip and diplomatic efforts intensified to end more than two weeks of fighting that has killed more than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis.

It was not immediately known if the missing soldier was alive or dead, the Israeli defense official told The Associated Press. The disappearance raised the possibility that he had been captured by Hamas - a nightmare scenario for Israel. In the past, Israel has paid a heavy price in lopsided prisoner swaps to retrieve captured soldiers or remains held by its enemies.

Military officials said the soldier, identified as Sgt. Oron Shaul, was among seven soldiers in vehicle that was hit by an anti-tank missile in a battle in Gaza over the weekend. The other six have been confirmed as dead, but no remains have been identified as Shaul, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident with media.

Hamas' claimed earlier this week that it had captured an Israeli soldier. Israel's U.N. ambassador initially denied the claim but the military neither confirmed nor denied it.

A representative of Shaul's family, Racheli Gazit, said that "so long as the verification has not been completed ... as far as the family is concerned Oron is not a fallen soldier."

In Cairo, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Egyptian officials Tuesday in the highest-level push yet to end the deadly conflict. The U.N. has said that the majority of the Palestinians killed were civilians, among them dozens of children.

Israel launched its campaign on July 8 ostensibly to stop Hamas rocket fire into Israel and destroy tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. The military says Hamas has launched 2,000 rockets since the war began.

Overnight, Israel bombed more than 150 targets, including five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hamas military chief, a Gaza police official said, killing 46 people. Officials also said that among the dead since Monday were six members of a family who had German nationality.

The airstrikes set off huge explosions that turned the night sky over Gaza City orange early Tuesday. The sound of the blasts mixed with the thud of shelling, often just seconds apart, and the pre-dawn call to prayer from mosque loudspeakers.

Dozens of journalists and residents of a central Gaza City high-rise evacuated from the building after an Al-Jazeera correspondent said it was hit by Israeli gunfire Tuesday. The correspondent, Tamer al-Misshal, said two bullets hit the building, one puncturing a window.

"We are sure the firing came from Israel and not from Hamas," al-Misshal said.

Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel's prime minister, said "Israel dos not target journalists."

Tank shells also damaged several houses along the eastern border of the territory, Batniji said. At least 19 fishing boats were burned by Israeli navy shells fired from the Mediterranean Sea, he added.

Eleven people were killed when six upper floors of a Gaza high-rise collapsed onto the two lower stories, buckling them into rubble.

Among the dead were Ibrahim Kelani, 53, his wife Taghreed and their five children, said Ibrahim's brother, Saleh Kelani, 49. He said Tuesday that his brother and his brother's children, ranging in age from four to 12, had German citizenship, while his wife did not.

He said his brother lived in Germany for 20 years. Standing outside the morgue of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, Saleh Kelani said he was waiting for condemnation of Israel's actions by the international community, particularly Germany.

"Where is Germany?" he asked, fighting back tears. "When one Israeli is killed all the world talks about it. But six with German nationality? Nothing is happening."

In Israel, thousands attended the funeral on Monday night of Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, an Israeli-American soldier from Texas who was killed in the fighting.

"He's a hero to us and he's a hero to everyone," said Seth Greenberg, a friend who tattooed Carmeli's initials on his neck in the form of a Star of David.

The possibility of a captured soldier raises for Israel past abductions that turned into drawn out mediation with opponents leading to prisoner released. In 2008, Israel released five Lebanese militants in exchange for the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2006 Lebanon war.

Also in 2006, Hamas-allied militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid and held him captive in Gaza until Israel traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for his return in 2011.

Hamas had threatened in the past to kidnap more Israelis and Israel says the militant group's attacks through tunnels that stretch into Israel are for this purpose.

Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional cease-fire, to be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

Hamas, with some support from Qatar and Turkey, wants guarantees on lifting the blockade before halting fire. The Islamic militant group has no faith in mediation by Egypt's rulers, who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo a year ago and tightened restrictions on Gaza - to the point of driving Hamas into its worst financial crisis since its founding in 1987.

The border blockade has set Gaza back years, wiping out tens of thousands of jobs through bans on most exports and on imports of vital construction materials Israel says could be diverted by Hamas for military use. Israel allows many consumer goods into Gaza, but experts say Gaza's economy cannot recover without a resumption of exports.

It's not clear exactly what Israel and Hamas would each demand in return for agreeing to a truce now, but senior State Department officials said the issue of opening border crossings - potentially into Israel and Egypt - was under discussion.

"We will work to see if there is some way to not only arrive at a cease-fire of some kind but to get to a discussion about the underlying issues," Kerry said at the start of his meeting with Ban. "Nothing will be resolved by any cease-fire, temporary or long, without really getting to those issues at some point and that's what we need to do."

Kerry remained in Cairo on Monday for more meetings with top Egyptian officials. But there were no immediate plans for face-to-face meetings with officials from Qatar, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank.

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1000|Characters 1000  Characters
Joepalooka July 22 2014 at 9:50 AM

" Israel has paid a heavy price in lopsided prisoner swaps to retrieve captured soldiers or remains held by its enemies" = Israel values life, Hamas does not.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
3 replies
Bob July 22 2014 at 9:34 AM

And Obama sends 47 million in aid (47 million which we dont have) to Palestine? Are you kidding me?

Let the Palestinians fight their own battle,. When they get sick and tired of Hamas and kick them out, THEN send them money. Which will get siphoned off anyway. Why do they need money? More weapons?

Flag Reply +16 rate up
7 replies
Go Wildcats July 22 2014 at 10:05 AM

Blockade was because Palestinians were importing rockets to fire on Israel. They caused it all worthless Muslim morons.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
2 replies
Barack Obama Go Wildcats July 23 2014 at 2:11 AM

Don't call these morons morons. Call them turds which is what they are.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Joey Go Wildcats July 23 2014 at 2:12 AM

Scum Jew Bastard

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
bubbyejm Joey July 23 2014 at 7:45 AM

Is that how you refer to Jesus Christ - the JEW

Flag 0 rate up
Bill July 22 2014 at 10:07 AM

Force Hamas out of Gaza. This is the time to seriously do this. Have Hama turn over those who killed the htree Israeli teens.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
3 replies
Gene July 22 2014 at 5:19 PM

If in fact Hamas has a captive Israeli soldier, Israel's response should be to hand him over within 24 hours or turn Gaza into a desolate wasteland. Hamas heathens!

Flag Reply +7 rate up
3 replies
toneitup July 22 2014 at 11:46 AM

I see the last time we sent them aid it went to good things like: Tools use to make tunnels,concrete in their tunnels? Making pads for their rocket launchers so on.....

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
bbowens8 toneitup July 22 2014 at 7:46 PM

Why shouldn't they? Israel is their enemy and they also have a right to exist and to protect themselves by any means necessary.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
bubbyejm bbowens8 July 23 2014 at 7:47 AM

you do realize that it's hamas that keeps starting this conflict - your hatred of Israel is showing

Flag 0 rate up
bemystic11 July 22 2014 at 12:21 PM

Curious that the media focuses on 1 missing Israeli soldier....does that mean his life is worth more attention than the hundreds of innocent Palestinians who have been killed. I understand and empathize with the problem Israel has with Hamas, but there are Jewish extremists who are as evil as the Hamas terrorists.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
6 replies
dave and mary July 22 2014 at 9:37 AM

Not to worry. Muslim Jihadidsts/Hamas/other ******* animals, will treat the body dead or alive. with the utmost respect. Yeah sure. Muslims haven't yet figured out the thousands of years old maxim: hate begets hate; and it never wins in the end.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
flmanbythec dave and mary July 22 2014 at 12:06 PM

You and most posts are idiotic because this has NOTHING to do with Arab vs. Jew. It has everything top do with European Jews invading Arab land and then having a Jewish state thrown down their throats.
Not to mention the systematic slaughter of innocent men, women and children by the Israelis to make room for the invaders.
Tell me this, if you were Plaestinian, how would you react? Right, the same as me, fighting for my home and land.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
4 replies
Ghost dave and mary July 23 2014 at 9:20 AM

Arabs insists on living in the 6th century and they will be playing the blame game for the next 1000 years.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Liza July 22 2014 at 11:37 AM

I'm finding there are very few sane remarks here. This WAR causes people to get stupid really fast.
The count as of last night was 600 palestinians dead, 3,500 wounded.
Israel? 23 (two civilians included).
Hamas is terrorist of course, but women and children in Gaza are....women and children. Think there is any aim to eradicate as many Palestinians as possible by
Netanyahu? If you don't, you are blind. He is their Dick Cheney.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
6 replies
sbaron62 July 22 2014 at 4:44 PM

Israel use missiles to protect its citizens (Jews ,Muslims & Christians)
Hammas uses its citizens to protect the missiles.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
mario_u sbaron62 July 22 2014 at 6:54 PM

I see you are repeating what your master Netanyahu said like a puppet. Get a life loser and come up with an original idea yourself.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
moe jamal sbaron62 July 22 2014 at 10:08 PM

I wish gaza ******* use ur family for she'll let u see your own kids die in front of you your ok 500 kids died are u a ******* Hitler low life israel thinking mother ****** the don't have no ware to go 500 kids you think the whole world is watching we pay israil are tax money to kill kids where is the humanity where is the world's arab Europe China Russia USA everyone in the USA has blood on ther hand 500 kids I can't live with that but I think you can become your enamel

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
mybunkey moe jamal July 23 2014 at 2:58 AM

1st, Remember the 1967 war? The whole world looked on as five Arab nations crept torwards Israel to wipe them off the map with the intensions of killing every man women and child. The world did nothing to help Israel defend it self from these overwhelming odds! Within 1 day, Israel had total air superiority and brought all five Arab nations to their knees in less than 7 days. There is a movie about it, watcj it! Israel did nothing to provoke that war! Since then, Israel has been attacked over and over again withought provocation. The loss of those children, I think is being exaggerated just like they did in the Lebonese war when the actual facts came out. If you are an Israelis tank operator and a missile is being fired at you, would you idlely stand there and wait for them to fire another one until they hit you or would you fire at them? Hamas chooses to use populated areas to fight in, WANTING A HIGH BODY COUNT! they could give a **** about the Palistinian women and children.

Flag +1 rate up
bubbyejm moe jamal July 23 2014 at 8:02 AM

so moe jamal - why isn't hamas calling for a ceasefire if they value the lives of "the children" - can you answer that

Flag 0 rate up
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