UPDATE 1740 GMT: Gaza’s Health Ministry says the death toll from Israel’s bombardment of Rafah on Friday has risen to 62, with at least 350 wounded.
UPDATE 1600 GMT: Two Palestinian men have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces during demonstrations on Friday in the West Bank.
One of the men died in Tulkarem and one in Saffa, west of Ramallah.
According to the Red Crescent, 39 Palestinians were wounded by live rounds and rubber-coated bullets throughout the West Bank.
UPDATE 1550 GMT: This morning’s clash near Rafah has swung the US firmly behind Israel, leaving behind its criticism of Israeli military operations on Thursday.
Secretary of State John Kerry, after talking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the fighting — with the killing of two Israeli soldiers and capture of a third — was an “outrageous” violation of the 72-hour ceasefire. He demanded that Hamas “immediately and unconditionally release” 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin and asked “those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message”.
Kerry made no reference to the subsequent Israeli attacks that killed scores of people in Rafah. Instead, he said, “The international community must now redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life.”
UPDATE 1420 GMT: The White House has called the capture of Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin & the deaths of two others in clashes near Rafah “a barbaric violation” of the 72-hour ceasefire and demanded that Hamas return to a pause in fighting.
The statement came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called US Secretary of State John Kerry and said Hamas Israel will “take whatever actions it deems necessary” against Hamas and other “terrorist organizations”.
UPDATE 1410 GMT: The Israeli military has confirmed that two soldiers were killed in the clashes in Rafah that led to the capture of a third soldier.
The captured Israeli soldier has been identified as 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin. He is reportedly a second or third cousin of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and from a family of British Jewish immigrants.
UPDATE 1110 GMT: Moussa Abu Marzouk, claims Gazan fighters captured an Israeli soldier shortly before the 72-hour ceasefire took effect at 8 a.m. local time.
The military branch of Hamas echoed the statement:
There is no justification for Israel to violate the truce as the officer was captured & 2 soldiers were killed before the truce. ~ Hamas
— Al-Qassam Brigades (@Qassam_English) August 1, 2014
The Israeli military says that the clash in which the soldier was kidnapped occurred at about 9:30 a.m.
A “senior army source” says that the fight began when Gazan fighters came out of a tunnel shaft as a suicide bomber detonated his explosives.
UPDATE 1110 GMT: Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer links the Israeli bombardment of Rafah, killing at least 40 people with many more wounded, to the effort to retrieve a soldier captured by Gazan fighters:
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) August 1, 2014
The “Hannibal Directive”, adopted in 1986 by the Israel Defense Forces, mandates any necessary operations to prevent or halt the capture of a soldier.
UPDATE 1050 GMT: An Israeli soldier is believed to have been captured in the clashes with Gazan fighters near Rafah that ended the short-lived ceasefire.
Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said, “Forces operating to decommission a tunnel were attacked. Initial indications are that a soldier has been abducted by terrorists during the operation. The IDF (Israel Defense Force) is currently conducting intelligence efforts and extensive searches in order to locate the missing soldier.”
We are conducting extensive searches in S. Gaza in order to find a missing IDF soldier. We suspect the soldier was kidnapped by Hamas today
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 1, 2014
UPDATE 1050 GMT: The Palestinian Health Ministry says that, in addition to more than 40 people killed in Rafah by Israeli shelling, many wounded are trapped in their homes and cannot reach hospital.
Rafah’s only hospital, overloaded by casualties, is reportedly being shelled.
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) August 1, 2014
UPDATE 1030 GMT: Israeli fire is reported throughout the Gaza Strip, including Khuzaa and Khan Yunis.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has said that Israel is “responding all along the front line” because the ceasefire was “brazenly broken” by Hamas with “rockets and attacks against our troops”.
UPDATE 0930 GMT: General Yoav Mordechai, Israel’s coordinator for the Occupied Territories, has told UN envoy Robert Serry that the ceasefire is over.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry says at least 25 people have been killed by Israeli fire near Rafah, where clashes between the Israel Defense Force and Gazan fighters were reported an hour ago.
A local hospital put the death toll at more than 40.
Rockets from Gaza have been fired into southern Israel.
UPDATE 0830 GMT: Each side is accusing the other of ceasefire violations, only a few hours into the 72-hour humanitarian pause.
The Israel Defense Forces say Hamas committed a “flagrant violation” when fighters attacked from a tunnel near Rafah in the southern Gazan strip. Palestinian outlet say 5 to 8 people were killed by Israeli fire with at least 20 wounded.
France 24 is reporting three Israeli soldiers killed in the clashes.
Israel and Hamas agreed late Thursday night to implement a 72-hour “humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza and to join talks in Cairo for a lasting halt to the 24-day war.
The pause in fighting began at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) on Friday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the agreement, which came after a day in which Israel pursued more airstrikes and shelling and insisted that it would not cease fire until all cross-border tunnels from Gaza had been demolished.
However, the Israelis came under increasing pressure over their attacks, particularly Wednesday’s shelling of a UN shelter in Jabaliya which killed at least 15 people. Just before the Ban-Kerry announcement, the White House finally blamed West Jerusalem for the deaths:
The shelling of a UN facility, that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence, is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.
It is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards they have set themselves.
Hamas will be part of a Palestinian delegation, including the Palestinian Authority, in Cairo. The Gazan leadership is continuing to insist on a lifting of the Israeli blockade and the release of Palestinian detainees as part of any full ceasefire.
There has been no indication from Israel that it will accept any conditions. Instead, West Jerusalem is demanding the “demilitarization” of Gaza.
Israeli forces will remain in place in Gaza during the 72-hour pause. The Israel Defense Forces said destruction of tunnels would continue, with one officer assuring, “The activity continues as planned. If there’s fire, we’ll open fire too.”
Just before the ceasefire took effect, Israel’s air force hit another 40 targets, claiming one of them was a Hamas command center in a refugee camp.
Another 79 Gazans died in Israeli attacks on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 1,443, with more than 8,100 wounded. The UN said 236,374 Gazans are now in 86 shelters.
Five Israeli soldiers were killed by a mortar shell near Eshkol inside Israel on Thursday.
Israel has lost 61 soldiers since its ground invasion on July 17. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai foreign worker have been killed by Gazan rockets.
(Featured Photo: Jack Guez — AFP/Getty)