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Aqsa Brigades says Israel lying about number of soldier deaths

Aug. 14, 2014 5:50 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2014 9:43 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade on Thursday published a video accusing Israel of hiding the true death toll among its troops in Gaza, challenging Israel to "reveal the fate of an Israeli officer" it says the group killed.

In a message addressed to the Israeli people in Hebrew, an anonymous spokesman for the al-Aqsa Brigades said that the group "challenges Israel to reveal the fate of their engineering officer Sani Tomen Yaron, holder of military number 7599999."

The spokesman said that Yaron, whose name could also be "Yaron Snitman," had "fallen" in unspecified clashes after an ambush by al-Aqsa fighters in Beit Hanoun, but did not give details as to whether he had been captured or killed.

He accused Netanyahu of "lying" to the Israeli people, saying that the Israeli prime minister "hides the number of soldiers injured and killed in the battle."

The spokesman also went on to condemn the "crimes" committed by Netanyahu "against our children, women and elderly."

"Because he could not fight our men in the field, he destroyed houses over the heads of their residents," the spokesman added.

"You are not safe if our people do not live in freedom and independence," he said, adding: "We will resist until the end; killing for killing, shelling for shelling, and horror for horror."

An Israeli military spokeswoman, however, denied the reports, saying that she knew of the soldier and that "he is home and fine and everything is okay."

No soldier named "Sani Tomen Yaron" nor "Yaron Snitman" was listed among the casualty records that have been released by the Israeli military. Palestinians have previously accused Israel of downplaying the death toll among its soldiers.

The army says that 64 soldiers have been killed since the onset of the ground invasion of Gaza, while more than 1,000 have been injured.

Palestinian militant groups in Gaza in July claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier named Oron Shaul, which Israeli forces initially denied but later admitted had been killed in battle without his body being recovered.

In early August, Israeli forces accused Palestinian militants of captured an Israeli soldier during an ambush near Rafah, which the group denied. Israeli forces responded by bombarding Rafah, killing around 150.

Israel has in the past exchanged the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers for Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails, as well as the bodies of militants that were being held by Israel.

An Israel-Hezbollah exchange in 2008 traded the bodies of two Israeli soldiers for five Lebanese prisoners as well as the remains of nearly 200 Palestinian and Lebanese militants in Israeli custody.

At least 6,500 Palestinian prisoners are currently being held in Israeli prisons.
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