JTA World News Service
(JTA) — An Israeli soldier appears to have been captured by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces identified the soldier as 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba.
Hamas fighters reportedly emerged Friday morning from a tunnel near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, not long after a 72-hour cease-fire had taken effect. A Palestinian suicide attacker was among the assailants, and Goldin was dragged into a tunnel during exchanges of fire between Hamas fighters and Israeli troops, an IDF spokesman said.
At least two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack, bringing to 63 the total number of Israeli soldiers killed since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.
Israeli officials have told U.N. officials that Israel considers the cease-fire, which was brokered by the United States and the United Nations and was to begin at 8 a.m. local time, ruptured. The army conducted extensive operations Friday to locate the missing soldier.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas official based in Cairo, said his group was holding an Israeli officer and that he was captured before the cease-fire’s 8 a.m. start, Israel Radio reported.
IDF officials said the firefight in Rafah and the abduction took place about 90 minutes after the start of the cease-fire, which left Israeli soldiers in place to continue operating against the tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
U.N. special envoy Robert Serry said Friday in a statement that, if confirmed, the soldier’s capture “would constitute a serious violation of the humanitarian cease-fire in place since 8 a.m. this morning by Gazan militant factions, which should be condemned in the strongest terms.”
Heavy fighting broke out after the 8 a.m. deadline, according to multiple reports. Dozens of Palestinians were killed, Palestinian sources told media, and multiple mortar shells were fired at Israel.
The cease-fire announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was supposed to facilitate Egyptian-hosted talks on ending the hostilities.
After news of Goldin’s capture broke, the umbrella group representing British Jewry urged the U.K. government to do everything in its power to secure release of Goldin, who was born in Britain.
“We urge the government to show its support for the Goldin family and to speak out against this deplorable act by the terrorist group Hamas and do everything in its power to secure his release,” the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council said in a statement.