Hamas: Captured Israeli Soldier Likely Killed in Bombardment

Group's military wing says it lost contact with the combatants that took part in the Rafah ambush and that, assuming they did abduct 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, he would have been killed in an Israeli strike.

Reuters

Hamas’ military wing issued a statement Saturday morning saying that it believes the missing Israeli officer was killed in an Israeli bombardment.

"We lost contact with the group of combatants that took part in the ambush,” the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ statement said, “and we believe they were all killed in the bombardment. Assuming that they managed to abduct the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident."

The statement added that Hamas told mediators that the organization was ready for a humanitarian cease-fire and would not shoot rockets into Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed Friday afternoon that two soldiers were killed that morning and one was believed captured by Hamas militants. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, "a group of Hamas terrorists, including a suicide attacker, kidnapped 2nd Lt. (Hadar) Goldin at 9:30 A.M. and dragged him into a tunnel." The incident, in which the 23-year-old from Kfar Saba went missing, occurred in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, shortly after a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire – agreed upon by both Israel and Hamas – went into effect at 8:00 A.M.

A senior Israeli officer said Saturday that the army cannot say anything about Goldin's physical state, but according to information at the army's disposal, the soldier was with Major Benaya Sarel, 26, an infantry officer from Kiryat Arba, and Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni, 20, an infantry soldier from Jerusalem, during the incident, both of whom were killed. The senior officer also said there are no more soldiers left to question about the incident, except for those who were dozens of meters away from the site at the time.

On Friday night, Hamas’ political wing said it had no information about a captured Israeli soldier, and that even if the claims were true, only the military leadership was authorized to report such an event.

The political wing added that at 7:00 A.M. the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades were fighting Israeli forces entering Rafah. These forces planned to remain in place, violating the cease-fire, so we acted against the forces and harmed soldiers, it said.

U.S., UN condemn capture

World leaders accused Hamas of collapsing the 72-hour truce. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Friday morning’s attack was "an outrageous violation of the cease-fire negotiated over the past several days, and of assurances given to the UN and U.S."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked and profoundly disappointed" by Hamas' violation of the humanitarian cease-fire Friday morning and demanded the immediate release of the reportedly captured soldier. He also casts doubt on the credibility of the assurances previously given by Hamas to the United Nations.

In conversations with Kerry and Ban on Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza will be held accountable for the incident.

Later Friday night, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Hamas for Goldin’s apparent capture, saying if Hamas is serious about resolving the situation, the Israeli officer must be freed. "If they (Hamas) are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible," he told a press conference.

Obama reiterated Israel's right to defend itself, saying no country would tolerate rockets and tunnel attacks. He stated that Hamas is housing rockets in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, "which is why we see innocent people getting killed."

The president said Israel committed itself to the cease-fire before it was violated, cautioning that Israel cannot be confident that a cease-fire will hold if Hamas cannot control all Palestinian factions.

2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was feared captured in the Gaza Strip until he was declared dead on Sunday.