Hopes for a 72-hour humanitarian cease fire in the Gaza Strip were dashed on Friday only a few hours after the truce was scheduled to take effect.
Renewed Israeli shelling resulted in the death of an estimated 40 Palestinians by midday and one Israeli soldier was reported captured and others killed after an IDF unit was engaged by Hamas soldiers inside Gaza.
As Reuters reports:
Some two hours after the truce went into effect, Israeli tanks and artillery opened fire in the southern Rafah area, and a local hospital said 40 people were killed.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment but media reports said the shelling began after Hamas fighters exchanged fire with Israeli soldiers on a mission to destroy infiltration tunnels.
Eight rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza at Israel, the military said, adding that one was intercepted by the Iron Dome system and seven hit open areas.
An official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip had "flagrantly violated the ceasefire". But the official stopped short of formally declaring the truce over.
On the captured IDF soldier and violence around Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the Ma'an News Agency reports:
The Israeli military on Friday said that an Israeli soldier had been captured earlier in the day, confirming hours of speculation amid intense clashes and shelling near Rafah.
An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma'an that she could confirm a "suspected abduction" of an Israeli soldier in the area.
The military said in a statement that at around 9:30 a.m., "an attack was executed against (Israeli) forces operating to decommission a tunnel."
"Initial indication suggests that an (Israeli) soldier has been abducted by terrorists during the incident."
Palestinian militants had reportedly emerged from tunnels east of Rafah and launched an attack on Israeli forces stationed there.
In response to the attack, Israeli forces launched a massive artillery attack on eastern Rafah, with at least 35 dead and more than 200 injured so far.
The Israeli army, security services, and Shabak were currently said to be searching for the captured soldier, as intense shelling continued to rain down on Rafah.
The capture is the second such incident since Israel launched its massive assault on the Gaza Strip 24 days ago. On July 20, Hamas militants said that they had captured Oron Shaul.
From the town of Beit Hanoun inside Gaza, Jason Burke, a correspondent for the Guardian, reported:
It was quite a heavy night with a fair amount of naval shelling coming in and what sounded like some significant airstrikes but all was quiet after 8am. In Gaza City, fishermen immediately put to sea, cautiously keeping close to the shore, after nearly four weeks without working. there was a general sense of real relief. Most people I spoke to seemed to think the ceasefire would hold.
Up in Beit Hanoun, a town near the northern border of Gaza which has seen sustained bombardment and fighting, hundreds of families were making their way back to find their homes, or what remained of them. A couple of bulldozers were trying to clear some of the streets. power lines coiled across the streets, amid the putrefying corpses of dead donkeys.
One woman sat sobbing in the rubble. Many people were very angry.
“This is like the second world war, like a nuclear explosion,” said Ahmed Kufurna, 40.
All hoped the ceasefire would hold. “This is the worst and the hardest war i have seen,” said Seehan Nassr, 42. “God willing now it will be peaceful.”