After cease-fire collapses, Israel moves deeper into Gaza to search for missing soldier
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JUDY WOODRUFF: After a failed attempt at a cease-fire, the fighting between Israel and Hamas is escalating again. Israeli soldiers have moved deeper into Southern Gaza in search of one of their soldiers who apparently was captured.To date, the conflict has resulted in the deaths of at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians.
Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, has more.
MARGARET WARNER: The flares and explosions that rattled Gaza overnight quieted, as the cease-fire, which held the most promise for allowing a resolution to the 25-day-long crisis, went into effect at 8:00 a.m. In Israel, soldiers rested by their tanks. And, in Gaza, thousands of residents flooded into the streets. Some restocked supplies, while others surveyed the damage.
But, in less than two hours, the cease-fire blew up. Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Peter Lerner charged, Hamas broke the truce when militants attacked Israeli forces dismantling tunnels inside Gaza territory under their control.
PETER LERNER, Spokesman, Israel Defense Forces: At half past 9:00 this morning, two terrorists came out of a tunnel. One of them detonated himself in a suicide bombing attack, killing two soldiers. Another one came out shooting with an automatic weapon. And in the aftermath of that, we noticed that we had an officer that had been abducted into the tunnel.
MARGARET WARNER: Israel responded quickly with tanks firing toward the southern Gazan town of Rafah. Residents scrambled for cover, and Palestinian officials claimed at least 50 people were killed in that shelling.
Israeli officials declared the cease-fire over, and by day’s end, the death toll stood at 62 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers.
This afternoon, President Obama had strong words about Hamas’ reported actions.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a cease-fire had been announced. And the U.N. has condemned them as well. And, you know, I want to make sure that they are listening.
MARGARET WARNER: The father of the soldier Israel reported captured, 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, said he was hopeful his son would be returned.
SIMCHA GOLDIN, Father of Missing Israeli Soldier (through interpreter): We want to support the Israeli army and the state of Israel in its fight against Hamas in Gaza. And we are certain that the army will not stop under any circumstance, and will bring Hadar back home safe and sound.
MARGARET WARNER: But Hamas denied any knowledge of a captured soldier. And a spokesman denied breaking the cease-fire.
FAWZI BARHOUM, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): The Israeli enemy is the one that breached the truce, when Israeli special forces entered the eastern side of Rafah. The Palestinian resistance clashed with them, and this was our right to defend ourselves, according to our understanding with the sides.
MARGARET WARNER: And Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank. The 72-hour cease-fire was to be followed by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Egypt on finding a durable solution. Officials in Cairo said the invitation to both parties still stands.