Israel, Hamas accuse each other of breaking truce

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip At least 44 Palestinians are now reported dead in the violence that erupted in a southern Gaza town, as a cease-fire that began less than two hours earlier fell apart.

Israel and Hamas are accusing each other of breaking the truce.

The Israeli military says two of its soldiers were killed, and that an Israeli infantry officer may have been captured during fighting. If confirmed, the capture of the soldier -- identified as Hadar Goldin -- could dramatically change the direction of the conflict. Any cease-fire efforts would likely be put on hold, and Israel might instead expand its ground operation.

The breakdown of the truce and the apparent capture of the Israeli soldier set the stage for a major escalation of the 25-day-old conflict. According to Palestinian officials, the fighting has already killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians.

An Israeli army spokesman says an hour after today's cease-fire started, gunmen emerged from one or more Gaza tunnels and opened fire at Israeli soldiers, with at least one of the militants detonating an explosives vest.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation that Palestinian militants had "unilaterally and grossly" violated the cease-fire.

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