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72-hour truce in tatters as 2 Israeli soldiers killed, one feared captured

English.news.cn   2014-08-01 20:39:24

JERUSALEM/GAZA, 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."

Gaza medical sources said 35 Palestinians were killed, and a hundred more were injured as a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza fell apart Friday noon.

The sources also said that Israeli forces shelled eastern Rafah area in southern Gaza Strip shortly after a cease-fire came into effect Friday morning, adding that the body count is expected to rise as rescue efforts are underway to search under the rubbles of the flattened houses.

The Israeli public radio confirmed that the Israeli army and Palestinians militants exchanged fire in Rafah area. The radio added that the fighting broke out when Palestinian militants came out from a tunnel opening near Kerem Shalom crossing at the southern edge of Gaza.

In the attack, two Israeli soldiers were killed. The Israeli authority has earlier closed the Kerem Shalom, the only commercial crossing in Gaza.

Israel accused Hamas of the "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.

A UN official urged both parties to urgently reaffirm their commitment to the humanitarian ceasefire. In an emailed statement to Xinhua, Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the UN so far haven't been able to confirm reports of the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians fighters coming up from a tunnel.

However, he added if the news were true, "it would constitute a serious violation of the humanitarian ceasefire in place since 8 am this morning by Gazan militant factions, which should be condemned in the strongest terms," the statement said.

Also on Friday, Israel said in a statement that one of its soldiers may have been seized early in the day by Gaza militants during clashes in the southern Gaza Strip.

"Preliminary information indicates that a soldier may have been kidnapped," an Israeli 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 released earlier 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.

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.

So far, at least 63 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.

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Editor: Yamei Wang
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