The 72-hour Israel/Gaza ceasefire announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday was interrupted when militants allegedly attacked soldiers searching for tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, causing Israel to declare the agreement void.
Fifty Palestinians were killed in the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The ceasefire, which began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), had prompted Palestinian families to trek back to battle-devastated neighbourhoods where rows of homes have been reduced to rubble. It was to be followed by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo on a longer-term solution.
Egyptian officials said the invitation to negotiators still stood, but some Palestinian representatives had asked for a postponement until Saturday or Sunday to allow a new truce to be reached.
The Israeli military said that 90 minutes into the truce, militants attacked soldiers searching for tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip used to infiltrate fighters into Israel.
“Out of a tunnel access point or several, terrorists came out of the ground. At least one was a suicide terrorist who detonated himself. There was an exchange of fire,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, a military spokesman. Two of the soldiers were killed.
“The initial indication suggests that a soldier has been abducted by terrorists during the incident,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
Asked if the ceasefire was over, Lerner replied: “Yes. We are continuing our activities on the ground.” He said Israeli forces were mounting an “extensive effort” to locate the soldier.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 220 others were wounded by Israeli shelling after the incident near the southern town of Rafah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement denouncing the breach:
“Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip will bear the consequences of their actions and Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for its annihilation and terrorise its citizens,” the statement quoted Netanyahu as saying.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
SOURCE: Reuters | VIDEO SOURCE: News Inc.
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