Gaza/Jerusalem, Aug 1: At least 27 Palestinians were killed and 200 others were wounded Friday in Israeli air raids and artillery attacks on the city of Rafah, in the south of Gaza, breaking a 72-hour humanitarian truce agreed by Israel and the Islamic Palestinian movement Hamas. Local sources in Rafah reported intense fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militias in the area, which borders Egypt, Efe news agency reported.
The fighting broke out only hours after the humanitarian truce took effect at 8 a.m. Earlier, the Palestinian news agency Maan said a man was shot dead in Gaza City and two others were killed in an Israeli air raid. Israel, on its part, had accused Hamas of firing eight rockets on its territory despite the truce fostered by the US and the UN.
Israel, which has vowed to continue its offensive on Gaza until all the underground tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks are destroyed, had agreed to the truce but had made it clear that its troops would remain on the ground.
Another 16,000 reservists were called on Wednesday to reinforce the ground offensive launched on July 17, bringing to 86,000 the number of Israeli troops involved in Operation Protective Edge. Palestinian militias on Friday found four bodies as they searched the ruins of buildings just after the beginning of the truce.
According to a Xinhua report, the Israeli military said Friday a US/UN-backed Gaza ceasefire that went into effect earlier Friday was over while military operations continued on the ground. At a media conference call, Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, confirmed the termination of the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, saying: “We are continuing our activities on the ground.”
Israeli media reported that Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has informed the UN that the ceasefire was over due to rocket firing. However, a spokesperson with the COGAT office has declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military said that eight rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel after the truce went into effect. “One was intercepted and seven hit open areas,” the spokesperson said. No casualties or damages were reported.
Also on Friday, Israel said in a statement that one of its soldiers might have been kidnapped early in the day by Gaza militants during clashes in the southern Gaza Strip. According to a Israeli military spokesperson, at around 9.30 a.m., militants in Gaza opened fire at Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip.
“Preliminary information indicates that a soldier may have been kidnapped,” the spokesperson said. The military was deploying large air and ground forces, including intelligence efforts, in order to locate the missing soldier.
According to the Efe report, 1,463 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and over 8,000 wounded since the Israeli offensive began 25 days ago.