JERUSALEM, Aug 1 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military said on Friday that a U.S./UN backed Gaza ceasefire that went into effect earlier on Friday is over while military operations continued on the ground.
At a media conference call, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, confirmed the termination of the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, saying: "We are continuing our activities on the ground."
The three-day conflict break in Gaza went into effect in early Friday morning but was breached almost immediately, with Israeli shelling killing at least 27 Palestinians and Gaza rockets fired at Israel, Israeli officials said.
Israel denounced a "flagrant breach" of the 72-hour truce less than four hours after it started, saying Hamas had resumed rocket fire on Israel.
A short while ago, Israeli media reported that Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has informed the UN that the ceasefire is over due to rocket firing. However, a spokesperson with the COGAT office has declined to comment.
Previously, there were at least four short humanitarian cease- fires announced since the conflict began, but each has been breached by renewed fighting.
The latest humanitarian respite proposed by the UN and the United States was agreed upon by Israel and all factions of the Palestinians, including Hamas, which said that as long as Israel stays committed to the truce, they would do the same.
Also on Friday, Israel said in a statement that one of its soldiers may have been kidnapped early in the day by Gaza militants during clashes in the southern Gaza Strip.
According to a Israeli military spokesperson, at around 9:30 am (06:30 GMT) Gaza militants opened fire at Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip.
"Preliminary information indicates that a soldier may have been kidnapped," the spokesperson said. The military was deploying large air and ground forces, including intelligence efforts, in order to locate the missing soldier.
Meanwhile, an Israeli military statement said a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday killed five of its soldiers near the border area.
"Yesterday evening, five Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed during operational activity along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces," a military statement said, adding that the shell hit a spot where the soldiers were gathering and waiting to enter the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Earlier last month, Israel launched its military offensive in Hamas-dominated Gaza, employing air and naval bombardments in response to a surge of cross-border rocket attacks. A ground incursion was later ordered on July 17.
So far, a total of 61 Israeli soldiers and three civilians were confirmed to have been killed, while on the Palestinian side, at least 1,459 people were killed, mostly civilians, according the Gaza Health Ministry, adding that some 8,360 more people were wounded.