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62 killed in Gaza; Israeli soldier feared captured


By IBRAHIM BARZAK and DANIEL ESTRIN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israeli forces, backed by heavy tank fire and airstrikes, moved deeper into southern Gaza late Friday in search of a soldier apparently captured in a clash with Hamas militants earlier in the day. At least 62 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fierce fighting that quickly shattered a U.S.-brokered cease-fire.

The truce collapsed less than two hours after it began. The Israeli Cabinet held a rare session after the start of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evening to weigh options, including whether to expand the 25-day-old operation against Hamas.

In Gaza's southern Rafah area, the military urged residents in phone calls to stay indoors as troops advanced.

"We are under fire. Every minute or so, tanks fire shells," said Ayman al-Arja, 45, a resident of the area.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon blamed Hamas for violating what was meant to be a three-day humanitarian cease-fire and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the missing soldier.

Both Israel and Hamas accused each other of breaking the cease-fire, which had been announced by the U.S. and the U.N. and took effect at 8:00 a.m. Friday.

The breakdown of the truce and the apparent capture of the Israeli soldier set the stage for a major escalation. The conflict has already devastated large swaths of the coastal area and killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian officials. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians.

An hour after Friday's cease-fire started, gunmen emerged from one or more Gaza tunnels and opened fire at Israeli soldier, with at least one of the militants detonating an explosives vest, said Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old 2nd Lt. from the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken back into Gaza through a tunnel, while another two soldiers were killed.

"We suspect that he has been kidnapped," Lerner said.

The White House condemned the incident, describing it as an "absolutely outrageous" action by Hamas. Deputy National Security Adviser Josh Earnest said the soldier must be released immediately.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation that Palestinian militants had "unilaterally and grossly" violated the ceasefire and attacked Israeli soldiers after 9 a.m.

"Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens," Netanyahu told Kerry, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, said Hamas had "yet again thrown away a chance for a humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, by deliberately violating this ceasefire."

Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' deputy leader, told Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement's military wing carried no military operations after 8 a.m., when the truce came into force.

If confirmed, Goldin's capture could dramatically change the trajectory of the conflict. Any cease-fire efforts would likely be put on hold and Israel might instead expand its ground operation. Israel has in the past gone to great lengths to return captured soldiers. In 2011, it traded hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier who had been captured by Hamas-allied militants in 2006.

A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, would neither confirm nor deny the capture, saying it was being used - along with news that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the Rafah area - as a cover for a "massacre."

The Israeli military said the heavy shelling in Rafah that followed was part of operational and intelligence activity designed to locate Goldin.

A longtime friend of Goldin's said he is engaged to get married and that he studied at a religious Jewish seminary in the West Bank settlement of Eli. Goldin has a twin brother who is also in the military on the Gaza front-lines, said the friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have the family's permission to discuss Goldin's personal details with the media.

The soldier's father, Simha Goldin, is a Tel Aviv University professor specializing in Ashkenazi Jewry, the friend said.

"We want to support the military in the fighting against Hamas in Gaza. We are sure the military will not stop before it turns over every stone in Gaza and returns Hadar home safe and sound," the father said in a brief statement to media outside his home.

The shelling in Rafah sent families fleeing from apartment blocks as pillars of smoke caused by the shelling rose from them. One woman carrying two children rushed toward a parked car. "Quickly, open the car door!" she yelled to a man standing nearby.

Ambulances ferried the wounded to Rafah's al-Najar hospital, where bloodied bodies on stretchers were carried inside and family members frantically searched for loved ones. Many of the wounded were children, their clothes stained with blood. In one hospital room, four children were treated on a single bed. Others were being examined on the floor.

The shelling killed at least 62 Palestinians and wounded at least 400 in Rafah, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Rescue workers were searching for people buried under the rubble, he added. He did not say whether those killed were civilians or militants.

On July 8, Israel launched an aerial campaign against Gaza aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and later sent in ground troops to target launch sites and tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel.

Four brief humanitarian cease-fires had been announced since the conflict began, but each broke within a few hours. The military said Gaza militants had fired at least 23 rockets and mortars at Israel since the start of Friday's cease-fire, one of which was intercepted.

The latest cease-fire had been intended to be the first step toward a lasting truce, with Egypt inviting Israeli and Palestinian delegations to Cairo for talks.

Despite the collapse of the latest truce, an Egyptian government official said Cairo had not canceled its invitation for Palestinians and Israelis to hold talks there. "Invitations were delivered already to the delegations," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

After the cease-fire started, Gaza's residents took advantage of the lull to return to their homes, many of which had been destroyed in the fighting.

In the heavily bombarded Gaza district of Shijaiyah, less than 1.6 kilometers (a mile) from the Israeli border, residents surveyed the damage.

Bassem Abul Qumbus found his three-story home - in which he had invested tens of thousands of dollars - shattered. Shells had punched a hole in the ceiling of one bedroom and a wall had collapsed into the kitchen.

"The work of all those years is gone," he said, as he struggled to salvage flour from bags that had been torn apart by shrapnel.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, residents searched for bodies in the rubble of their homes as rescuers and volunteers carried away corpses, some charred, on makeshift stretchers.

Nidal Abu Rjeila found the body of his disabled sister on the ground on the side of the road, her wheelchair flipped upside down. He said her body had been there for five days.

"I tried to reach human rights groups and the Red Cross, but no one was answering me," he said as he lay down by his sister's body, overcome by grief.

Israel says it has tried to spare civilians, including by warning people ahead of military strikes, and has said Hamas endangers Gazans by firing rockets from residential areas.

Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since the start of the conflict, extending their reach to major cities but causing very few casualties, in part because Israel's Iron Dome defense system has intercepted many of the projectiles.

Hamas has vowed to keep fighting until Israel and Egypt lift a blockade of Gaza imposed after the Islamic militant group seized power there in 2007, which has devastated the local economy.

Gaza's police operations room said that by Friday afternoon, Israeli ground forces had moved deeper into the Rafah area from the east. There were also airstrikes along the nearby Egypt-Gaza border, as well as heavy shelling.

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joper201 August 01 2014 at 2:14 PM

Why did Hamas use a tunnel to kill an Israeli soldier less than 2 hours after the truce began?????
I'll tell you why!
The body count of the innocent children these animals use for human shields was stopped.
Hamas is a master of using the Press to their own vile, evil end.
The bodies of innocent children is heartbreaking for anyone.
Hamas KNOWS non thinking will blame Israel instead of Hamas.

Most people don't comprehend the thought process of haters who will strap bombs to their children and blow them up in order to kill Jews and other Infidels.

To these people their love of Jihad is so great they will sacrifice their children to satisfy their children.

How do we know the body count is accurate when it comes from people who hate more than they love their own children??

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5 replies
aajarm August 01 2014 at 2:40 PM

If Israel can help rid the world of the cancer of Islam ...then they have my support.

An American that remembers 911

Flag Reply +27 rate up
2 replies
robmjbprec aajarm August 01 2014 at 3:10 PM

This isn't Islamic teachings, these are extremists. Your talk of ridding the world of any group is no better than Hamas's wishes. I remember a Christian that shot and killed a doctor and 2 nurses and burned down an abortion clinic. In your little world, I guess all Christians do this.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
lakota6020 robmjbprec August 01 2014 at 3:24 PM

Yes it is the teaching in the Quran. It is like the old testament in the Bible.. however Christians evolved to the New Testament ... the Quran states that anyone adding to their holy text must die.

Flag 0 rate up
ctjrk robmjbprec August 01 2014 at 3:33 PM

It don't look like you've ever read the Quran . Like most Christians don't read the Bible, or Muslims read the Quran , if Muslims did fallow the Quran, they'd be like Isis . Islam actually teaches killing Christians and Jews or anyone who wont convert.

Flag 0 rate up
arcpac aajarm August 01 2014 at 3:21 PM

You are a goof...the Koran calls for the conversion or death of all infidels...including you knucklehead

Flag Reply 0 rate up
hwlndrbrt August 01 2014 at 2:10 PM

Prayers with Israel. God will deliver her enemies, and Israel will prevail. God is her defense, refuge, and strength. Let her enemies know that God will avenge any wrong done to His country, Israel. Israel's not going away; rather she will live long!!! Stand for Israel!!!

Flag Reply +22 rate up
5 replies
silvertonbwa115 August 01 2014 at 2:41 PM

Hamas are Terorrist, if you back them, so are you

Flag Reply +19 rate up
clark August 01 2014 at 2:34 PM

love it when hamas gets the s@#% kicked out of them.Go Israel.don't stop til,they are all in the ground.It makes no difference to the world if you kill 20 or a million, the world will still hate the Jews.The world including the US is blind to the evil that those without blinders really see.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
nilieng August 01 2014 at 2:35 PM

Israel just do the right thing and flatten Gaza the way England flattened Dresden and the way the USA flattened Hiroshima

Flag Reply +16 rate up
greenwayrepair August 01 2014 at 2:22 PM

Deal? Can't deal with Hamas! Let's get the job done Israel...Quit screwing around!

Flag Reply +16 rate up
noadmail August 01 2014 at 2:39 PM

Notice that most of the pictures are of Palestinian men around the same age group. They are unarmed militants that stash their weapons as soon as the press arrives.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
1 reply
Bobby Brown noadmail August 01 2014 at 2:48 PM

and the leftist media is lapping it up--HA

Flag Reply +1 rate up
homer.boyd August 01 2014 at 2:36 PM

Wonder why you never see Jewish kids out in the streets throwing rocks. Maybe that's why they have fewer deaths.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
anvmd August 01 2014 at 2:31 PM

If they all stone themselves to death, there won't be anyone left to fight. GO ISRAEL

Flag Reply +12 rate up
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