An Israeli soldier appears to have been captured by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defence Forces identified the soldier as 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba.
Hamas fighters reportedly emerged Friday morning from a tunnel near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, not long after a 72-hour cease-fire had taken effect. A Palestinian suicide attacker was among the assailants, and Goldin was dragged into a tunnel during exchanges of fire between Hamas fighters and Israeli troops, an IDF spokesman said.
According to Army Radio, the hostilities broke out after a powerful explosion of a charge that was strapped to the suicide bomber.
At least two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack, bringing to 63 the total number of Israeli soldiers killed since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.
Israeli officials have told UN officials that Israel considers the cease-fire, which was brokered by the United States and the United Nations and was to begin at 8 a.m. local time, ruptured. The army is conducting extensive operations to locate the missing soldier.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas official based in Cairo, said his group was holding an Israeli officer and that he was captured before the ceasefire’s 8 a.m. start, Israel Radio reported.
IDF officials said the firefight in Rafah and the abduction took place about 90 minutes after the start of the ceasefire, which left Israeli soldiers in place to continue operating against the tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
UN special envoy Robert Serry said Friday in a statement that he was informed by Israel of “a serious incident this morning” during the truce involving “a tunnel behind IDF lines in the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip,” in which two soldiers and multiple Palestinians were killed.
If confirmed, Serry said, “this would constitute a serious violation of the humanitarian ceasefire in place since 8 a.m. this morning by Gazan militant factions, which should be condemned in the strongest terms.”
Heavy fighting broke out after the 8 a.m. deadline, according to multiple reports. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed, Palestinian sources told media, and multiple mortar shells have been fired at Israel.
The ceasefire announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was supposed to facilitate Egyptian-hosted talks on ending the hostilities.
In the United Kingdom, the umbrella group representing British Jews urged the country’s government to do everything in its power to secure the release of the a British-born Goldin.
“The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, on behalf of the U.K. Jewish community, would like to express our dismay and revulsion at the kidnapping of British born, Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin,” the board said in a statement Friday.
Obama administration officials called Hamas’ capture of Goldin in the hours a ceasefire was supposed to be in effect “barbaric” and “outrageous.”
“That would be a rather barbaric violation of the ceasefire agreement,” Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson told CNN on Friday
“This is an outrageous action and we look to the rest of the world to join us in condemning it,” Tony Blinken, a deputy national security adviser, told MSNBC.