50 Palestinians Killed, Israeli Soldier Captured as Cease-fire Fails

Less than two hours after it began, the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel collapsed, resulting in the deaths of at least 50 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers. Hamas militants also reportedly captured an Israeli soldier, though it's unclear if the abduction took place before or after the truce's start.

Both sides blame the other for breaking the cease-fire. The Israeli military says one of its soldiers was captured by Hamas militants just 90 minutes after the cease-fire began. A senior official with Hamas reportedly confirmed that an Israeli soldier had been captured but claimed the abduction took place prior to the truce.

From the New York Times:

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that government forces were moving to destroy a tunnel, as the terms of the cease-fire allowed for, when several militants came out of the ground.

Colonel Lerner said the militants included at least one suicide attacker, that there was an exchange of fire on the ground and that initial indications were that a soldier was apparently dragged back into the tunnel.

Officials later said that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the gunfight following the soldier's abduction.

Meanwhile, a Hamas spokesman said Israel was responsible for the cease-fire's collapse. "The Israelis are the ones who breached the ceasefire, and the Palestinian resistance acted in a way that ensures its right of self-defense," Fawzi Barhoum told the BBC. "The world is demanded to immediately interfere to stop the ongoing massacres against our people."

Witnesses in Gaza told the Times that Israel's bombardment in Rafah began as residents were returning to examine their evacuated homes. From the Associated Press:

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra told The Associated Press that in addition to the dead some 200 Palestinians were wounded in the "random" Israeli shelling of the Rafah area in southern Gaza.

He said the death toll could rise as rescue workers continue to search for people buried under the rubble of several apartment blocks hit by shells

Over 1,460 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 65 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began July 8.

[Image via AP]