The Hamas Islamist group's armed wing in the Gaza Strip said on Saturday it had no clear indication on the whereabouts of an Israeli soldier that Israel has accused them of abducting, adding he may have been killed during an ambush.
A statement by the group said it had no contact with militants who were operating in the area in the southern Gaza Strip where Israel said Second-Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23, went missing on Friday, and it feared all had been killed.
"We have lost contact with the group of fighters that took part in the ambush and we believe they were all killed in the (Israeli) bombardment. Assuming that they managed to seize the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident," the statement said.
The Hamas attack on IDF soldiers in southern Gaza occurred an hour and a half after the start of a humanitarian truce
Goldin, a 23-year-old Givati officer from Kfar Saba, was named as the IDF soldier presumed to be taken captive by Hamas. His family has been notified.
Two other soldiers were killed during the incident. Their families have been notified.
The IDF named Major Benaya Sarel, 26, an officer in the Givati Brigade from Kiryat Arba, and St.-Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, also serving in Givati from Jerusalem, as the two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza on Friday morning. Both were posthumously promoted.
Sarel's funeral was scheduled for 12:15 a.m. Sunday at the cemetery in Hebron and Gidoni's funeral was scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.
During the attack, terrorists emerged from a tunnel shaft, and a suicide bomber detonated himself in the vicinity of soldiers. Heavy exchanges of fire ensued, before one of the IDF soldiers was kidnapped, a senior army source said.
The IDF said the incident occurred at 9:30 a.m., but a spokesman for Hamas's military wing claimed the terrorists came out of the tunnel and took part in the ensuing gunfight at 7:00 a.m.
"The incident is ongoing, and the IDF is in the midst of operational and intelligence efforts to track down the soldier," the army added.
The statement came after Palestinians reported heavy exchanges of fire in southern Gaza, in which several Hamas attackers were reportedly killed in IDF return fire.
Around 10 a.m. rocket and artillery fire resumed, bringing an end to the 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire brokered by the UN and the US that went into effect just two hours prior.
Palestinian media reported heavy casualties, with at least 40 dead, according to local sources. Rocket fire continued to hound southern Israel.
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