Qassam: Missing soldier likely killed by Israeli shelling
Published Saturday 02/08/2014 (updated) 03/08/2014 09:36
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas' military wing said early Saturday that it has no information on the whereabouts of the Israeli soldier missing in Gaza, and suggested that he had been killed by Israeli shelling.
The al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement that it had lost contact with a group of militants that could have captured a soldier amid clashes with Israeli troops early Friday.
"We lost contact with a group of fighters ... when Israeli occupation forces penetrated east of Rafah. We suspect they were all killed by Israeli shelling, including the soldier, who, supposedly, was abducted by the group."
The statement went on to explain Hamas' understanding of the chronology of events that led to the collapse of the ceasefire on Friday.
"What happened east of Rafah Friday morning was that occupation forces took advantage of the alleged humanitarian ceasefire to penetrate our land for more than two kilometers. We estimate that our fighters who were in the area clashed with the Israeli troops around 7:00 before the alleged ceasefire went into effect."
"Then, Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling targeted Palestinian civilians after 10:00 a.m., breaching the ceasefire under the pretext of searching for a missing soldier."
The account differs significantly from Israeli army statements about the collapse of the ceasefire.
The Israeli army on Friday said that "an attack ... executed against (Israeli) forces operating to decommission a tunnel" occurred at 9:30 a.m, an hour and a half into the ceasefire.
"Initial indication suggests that an (army) soldier has been abducted by terrorists during the incident," the army said in a statement.
The US and the UN responded to the incident by reiterating the Israeli army's chronology of events, and called for the immediate release of the soldier.
"I think it's going to be very hard to put a ceasefire back together again if Israelis and the international community can't feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a ceasefire commitment," US President Barack Obama said Friday.