News / Middle East

Israel: Missing Soldier Killed in Action

An Israeli soldier on a tank in a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Aug. 2, 2014.
An Israeli soldier on a tank in a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Aug. 2, 2014.
VOA News

The Israeli army says it has determined that the 23-year-old soldier it earlier said was captured by Hamas on Friday was killed in action.

An army spokesman says its chief rabbi determined Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin is dead and personally delivered the news to his family.

The army initially said Hamas fighters abducted Goldin when a suicide bomber attacked Israeli soldiers dismantling a tunnel near Rafah Friday.

That attack left two other Israeli soldiers dead and ended a cease-fire after a little more than one hour.

The army statement Saturday said Goldin "was killed in battle in the Gaza Strip on Friday."

Hamas has never confirmed it was holding Goldin.

The Israeli military statement was issued hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli troops would finish the job of destroying Hamas tunnels and then redeploy according to Israel's security needs.

Netanyahu said Israel has already destroyed dozens of tunnels Hamas used to smuggle weapons and fighters from Gaza and into Israeli territory. 

He also said hundreds of Hamas militants have been killed since Israel launched its ground and air operations almost a month ago.

Televised address

In an address in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas will 'pay an intolerable price' if it continues firing rockets at Israel, on Aug 2, 2014.In an address in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas will 'pay an intolerable price' if it continues firing rockets at Israel, on Aug 2, 2014.
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In an address in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas will 'pay an intolerable price' if it continues firing rockets at Israel, on Aug 2, 2014.
In an address in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas will 'pay an intolerable price' if it continues firing rockets at Israel, on Aug 2, 2014.

In a televised address Saturday, the prime minister warned that Hamas will pay an "intolerable" price if it fails to stop rocket attacks on Israel. He also stressed that Israel has nothing against the "peaceful citizens of Gaza," saying he is very sorry for each civilian killed or wounded and encouraging international support to help rebuild Gaza.

“We will take as much time as necessary and will exert as much force as needed,” he said in a televised address Saturday.

Netanyahu’s comments came on the same day Israel announced it would not send envoys to planned truce talks this weekend in Egypt, after accusing Hamas of violating what was to have been a three-day cease-fire beginning Friday morning.

The planned cease-fire fell apart Friday, with Israel accusing Hamas of killing two of its soldiers and capturing one in a morning ambush near Gaza's southern town of Rafah. Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was among Israeli soldiers dismantling a tunnel. Barely 90 minutes after the cease-fire took effect, Israel's military said, a suicide bomber attacked and gunfight broke out. The two soldiers were killed and Goldin went missing.

Netanyahu said the Jewish state "will continue doing everything" to bring the missing soldier home.

The prime minister warned Hamas will pay an "intolerable" price if it fails to end attacks on Israel from Gaza.

He promised Israeli ctizens the military would "bring back calm and order ... no matter how much time" and effort it would take. He thanked them for "resiliance and unity."

The prime minister apologized to Gaza's Palestinian civilians on behalf of Israelis. Saying "we have nothing against the citizens of Gaza," Netanyahu encouraged the international community "to help and support the rebuilding of Gaza." 

Netanyahu thanked United States and European leaders for their support, specifically praising U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for defending Israel's "right to destroy missiles and tunnels." The comment seemed aimed at defusing some of the criticism leveled at the secretary over rocky peace efforts. 

Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators marched in front of the White House Saturday to show their opposition to nearly four weeks of violence in Gaza.

Some demonstrators denounced U.S. funding for Israel and criticized Obama's assertion that the Jewish state has a right to self-defense, and others carried mock coffins to represent Palestinians killed in Gaza.

Fighting continues

Earlier Saturday, Israel bombarded Rafah as its troops continued to search for the missing officer.

A member of the Abed Aal family salvages belongings from his family's house destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City, Aug. 2, 2014.A member of the Abed Aal family salvages belongings from his family's house destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City, Aug. 2, 2014.
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A member of the Abed Aal family salvages belongings from his family's house destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City, Aug. 2, 2014.
A member of the Abed Aal family salvages belongings from his family's house destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City, Aug. 2, 2014.

Palestinian health officials said at least 35 people were killed in the shelling in and around Rafah, while fresh airstrikes across Gaza destroyed dozens of houses. Gaza Islamic University was also hit hard by Israeli attacks.

The Hamas military wing said it has no knowledge of the missing Israeli soldier's whereabouts. It said he likely was killed in an Israeli strike, along with the Hamas fighters who took part in the ambush. In a statement, Hamas said it had lost contact with its fighters.

Tunnel demolition nears completion

The military has nearly reached its goal of demolishing tunnels used by Hamas fighters to enter and infiltrate Israel, its spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, said Saturday. He said 31 tunnels have been blown up so far.

"Our understanding is that our objectives, most importantly the destruction of the tunnels, are close to completion," Reuters quoted Lerner. 

Also Saturday, Israel said it was safe for evacuees of Beit Lahia, a northern Gaza town of 70,000, to return to their homes. But the military advised residents "to beware of explosive devices Hamas has spread across the area," Reuters reported.

An unnamed Israeli official told the Associated Press that the military's message that Beit Lahia residents could return was "a signal that things are pretty much being wrapped up."

But armored vehicles still on the town's periphery made residents more wary of returning, Reuters said.

"No one has told us to go back," it quoted Taleb Manna, 30, who'd taken his family to a United Nations-run school doubling as a shelter. "We can't risk going back and being bombed by the Israeli forces."

After nearly a month of bombardment by the Israeli military, Gaza has become unrecognizable to Palestinians returning home after years in Israeli jails. Talking to the French news agency AFP, one man from the town of Deir al-Balah described the destruction as "a real shock."

Peace talks to continue

The Israeli cabinet had an exceptionally long and rare Friday night session to discuss the missing soldier.

While it decided against sending envoys to Cairo, diplomatic efforts were to continue this weekend there with representatives of some of the conflict's other various factions.

Reuters said representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, along with exiled officials of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group, were expected to participate in the talks.

"We are still continuing these [diplomatic] efforts with everyone, with all sides," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told journalists Saturday.

His country's proposed cease-fire represented the best way forward, Sissi said, adding it would aid negotiations to end "the violence and the killing and the bloodshed in Gaza."   

Israel demands that Gaza be demilitarized and that Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory stop, while the Palestinians insist Israel and Egypt end their blockades of Gaza, which have strangled the Gazan economy and keep Palestinians from traveling.

Escalating death toll

The fighting has been costly to Palestinians and Israelis alike. Since Israel began its offensive July 8 to halt rockets fired by Hamas and other militants, more than than 1,650 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed, Gaza health officials said. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians - a greater toll than in its 2006 war with Lebanon, the Associated Press reported.

The death toll includes at least 296 Palestinian youngsters, the United Nations said Saturday.

U.N. children's agency UNICEF has counted 187 boys and 109 girls killed, with at least 203 under age 12. The agency expects the count to rise, AFP said, because these were only the deaths verified to date.

Hospitals in Gaza were overwhelmed with wounded after 26 days of fighting, said the head of a network of Palestinian civic groups, Amjad Shawa.

"All Gaza is under attack. The humanitarian conditions are catastrophic due to the continuous Israeli air strikes [and] artillery bombardment in different areas of Gaza Strip,” Shawa said. “Most of the targets are civil premises."

He said humanitarian groups are unable to feed or provide health care to the estimated 400,000 Palestinians displaced by the conflict.

United Nations humanitarian officials on Saturday warned of a widespread health disaster in the Gaza Strip unless the ongoing fighting stops immediately, criticizing the lack of protection for Gaza-based doctors and medical facilities, calling the region's medical services are on the verge of collapse.

American support for Israel

Obama has called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally free the soldier to show that Hamas is serious about trying to resolve the situation in Gaza.

At a news conference Friday, Obama repeated that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas rockets and attacks. But he called the deaths of Palestinian civilians heartbreaking and said everything must be done to protect them.

Late Friday, U.S. Congress approved $225 million in emergency funding to help resupply Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, sending the measure to Obama to be signed into law. The House vote was 395 to 8.

An Israeli website said Saturday the Iron Dome system intercepted several rockets not long after Hamas said it had fired three rockets at Tel Aviv.

VOA's Scott Bobb contributed to this report from the Gaza Strip. The AP, AFP and Reuters also contributed.

Broken Cease-fire Ends Gazans’ Brief Respite from War (video)

Broken Cease-fire Ends Gazans’ Brief Respite from Wari
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Scott Bobb
August 02, 2014 1:52 PM
Israel and Hamas fighters in Gaza have declared an end to their short-lived cease-fire -- with each side accusing the other of breaking the accord. Before that occurred, Gazans enjoyed a few hours of peace and they took advantage of it. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.

 

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by: bill from: usa
August 02, 2014 7:48 PM
Sad

by: Lawrence Cornfart from: UK
August 02, 2014 6:05 PM
The media is nothing but the new age re-education camp. Up is down, ice breaking ship caught in the ice are signs of "global warming" , floods are droughts, animated weather forecasts are "radar images", chem trails are natural clouds, illegal immigrants are children, babies in the womb are not children. War is peace, regular people are terrorists, the sky is green and the grass is blue and if you don't believe it, your an enemy of the state.

by: Watcher of Wars from: USA
August 02, 2014 5:07 PM
So what does " mostly civilians" mean?

Let's do some very sad math.

1,650 Palestinians were killed. And of those numbers we are told that 296 Palestinian youngsters were sadly killed (187 boys and 109 girls killed, with at least 203 under age 12).

That leaves 1354 adults. But who are these adults.

Let us just say, for argument's sake, that for each child killed both of their parents died with them (and that is a pretty exaggerated number). We know that this is not true and we know that in many cases whole families were killed, mother and father with many children. So, this would be a high estimate I am making. That would mean that 592 parents (both) for each child that was killed.

592+296 = 888 civilians were killed out of the 1,650 killed. That leaves 762 other people, who have to be Hamas soldiers.

So, yes there were "mostly civilians" killed about 53% were civilians (at most with my 2 parents for each child killed) and 47% were Hamas soldiers.

And if only one parent for each child was killed, then only 35% were civilians and 65% were Hamas soldiers.

Surely sad in all cases, but we banter around number without really looking at what they mean. And what they might mean is that between 47% to 65% (or higher) of the numbers killed were Hamas soldiers. That to me is a whole lot less civilians killed when Hamas is executing the war and building tunnels and shooting missles from within a densely populated civilian area.

by: Thomas from: Pa, USA
August 02, 2014 5:00 PM
Shame on us for supporting and funding Israel to kill more children...and not taking care of our own issues within usa, Can we spend all that money for our own people, roads, mental hospitals or bringing security back to our inner cities.
Just a thought...

by: James McBride from: Maryland
August 02, 2014 4:58 PM
The USA has spent billions of our own treasure to purchase peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It is time John Kerry support Israel and face the reality that a purchased peace is unattainable.
Our own history of peace deal after peace deal with the American Indian was to no avail. The American Indian retarded the progress of the USA by about 50 years as similarly the Palestinians have done in the Middle East. It is time to destroy the Palestinians as we did the American Indians and place the remainder on isolated reservations so that not only the Middle East but the rest of world may progress in peace and harmony.

by: Q from: US
August 02, 2014 4:51 PM
Each time it looks a little like these clowns will settle their differences, the Israeli government announces new plans to add "settlements" in Palestinian territory. They WANT war. I say wall off the borders and let em duke it out. So lame.

by: Lawrence from: Baltimore, Maryland
August 02, 2014 4:47 PM
The United States was attacked Sept. 11, 2001 with more then 3000 civilian deaths, then refused to negotiate with the Taliban, then attacked Afghanistan Oct. 7, 2001, only 26 days later, and kept its military in "attack-mode" for 3520 days until it killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (without regard to recognized national borders of sovereign member nations of the UN). Please keep this in mind when you think about how Israel is reacting to Hamas. A difficult question: "Did you think terrorists do not create terror?" How did the US react to a terrorist attack? Did England forget about the V2 rocket attacks? There is a map of the V2 hit sites in London in WW2: http://londonist.com/2009/01/london_v2_rocket_sitesmapped.php
So, who shoots rockets at civilians???

by: khaled from: asheville
August 02, 2014 4:45 PM
In usa..You can mess with God but you can't mess with Israel!!!!! . what a shame

by: Smart Rufus
August 02, 2014 4:35 PM
As I observe with disbelief this terrible tragedy I can only find explanation to Israel's reaction by saying: The deep wounds of the Holocaust have left revengeful and psychotic nightmares that for generations have been suppress and have once again now exploded in apocalyptic hatred and violence. This manifestation is against an enemy that you disproportionally fear and that your subconscious insecurity increases fifty fold in size. If I am right then there is good hope for a better tomorrow. But if Israel's motives are others, that also include no Palestinians in sight, then there is little hope for peace for you and your children's children.

by: Gonzia Green from: United States
August 02, 2014 4:34 PM
God gave that land, once called Canaan; over 2600yrs ago. Your house is still your house; even if you & your family are dispossessed by conquering forces.
The BIBLE clearly says this in Genesis. Israel is only defending it's people. Remember; the U.N. announced Israel as a sovereign nation in1948. So, what land, which is their nation; is OCCUPIED?
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