Hamas claimed responsibility on Saturday for a deadly Gaza Strip ambush in which an Israeli army officer may have been captured, but said the incident likely preceded and therefore had not violated a U.S.- and U.N.-sponsored truce…report by CP
Palestinian officials say 1,653 Gazans, mostly civilians, have been killed. Sixty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed, and Palestinian shelling has killed three civilians in Israel. Israel launched a Gaza air and naval offensive on July 8 following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other Palestinian guerrillas, later escalating into ground incursions centred along the tunnel-riddled eastern frontier of the enclave but often pushing into residential areas.
A 23-year-old Israeli soldier, who was allegedly taken prisoner by the Hamas in Gaza Friday, has been declared dead by Israel’s military, and the White House has strongly condemned Gaza militants for violating a ceasefire as “barbaric and outrageous.”
“This is an outrageous action and we look to the rest of the world to join us in condemning it,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told MSNBC.
“The Israelis, of course, are reporting this morning that that ceasefire was broken,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told CNN. “Apparently, Hamas individuals used the cover of a humanitarian ceasefire to attack Israeli soldiers and even to take one hostage. That would be a rather barbaric violation of the cease-fire.”
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and another soldier, identified as 23-year-old Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, was allegedly abducted after Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel in Gaza on Friday. Israel then launched fresh attacks on Gaza, killing at least 47 people.
Goldin died in combat, Israel’s military has said.
“A special committee led by the Israel Defence Forces Chief Rabbi, announced the death of the IDF infantry officer of the Givati Brigade, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, who was killed in battle in the Gaza Strip on Friday, August 1, 2014,” the Israeli army said in a statement.
A three-day ceasefire, which was announced by the U.S. and the UN and began late Thursday, wasn’t honored, and both sides blamed each other for it.
The Palestinian death toll stands at more than 1,660 and about 440,000 people in Gaza have been displaced, according to Sky News. Israel says 63 soldiers and three civilians have been killed in the fighting.
The White House says Hamas must be brought to the terms of a truce.
“We would encourage the international community to respond to this and condemn it in the strongest possible terms, and we would encourage those who have influence with Hamas to get them back on to the terms of a cease-fire and to get them to abide by the agreements that they struck,” Earnest said.
The U.S. Senate as well as the House approved a $225-million support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system on Friday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has traveled to Egypt and France to help forge an agreement between Israel and Palestinian militants to end the fighting, which began on July 8 after Israel started its attack in Gaza in response to an increase in cross-border rocket strikes by Hamas militants.
Blinken brushed aside criticism that the United States has caused confusion by involving Egypt, Turkey and Qatar.
“The reason for going through Turkey, going through Qatar, is they have a relationship with Hamas. They need to use their influence with Hamas,” he said. “The Egyptians had an initiative. The Israelis signed up to it repeatedly and that was a good basis for trying to move forward.”
Israel has said it is targeting terror tunnels and other targets that pose a direct threat to its people. It has also blamed Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying that the militants are using people as human shields.
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