Israeli soldier killed in fight
JERUSALEM — An Israeli soldier the military feared had been abducted by Palestinian gunmen has been declared dead.
The military announced early Sunday that Hadar Goldin, 23, of the Givati infantry brigade had been killed in battle on Friday. Israel's defense minister, along with the chief military rabbi, met with the soldier's family at their home in the town of Kfar Saba.
It is understood the army verified his death based on DNA evidence found at the scene of the attack, the BBC reported.
Hundreds of well-wishers had gathered outside their home, praying and showing their support. There was an outpouring of grief when the military's announcement was made public.
The Israeli military had believed Goldin was taken in a Hamas ambush about an hour after an internationally brokered cease-fire took effect on Friday morning. The announcement of the abduction prompted widespread condemnation. President Obama and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called for Goldin's immediate and unconditional release.
Chemi Goldin, an Israeli officer, said his brother's “voice cannot be heard. My brother is a beautiful child; he is a beautiful painter and artist, and he just proposed a few months ago and is due to be married soon.”
Israel conducted searches in the territory to find Goldin and deployed heavy fire that killed scores of Palestinians.
Israel continued to pound Gaza on Saturday, killing at least 72 Palestinians, many in the southern border town of Rafah where Israeli troops searched for the soldier.
‘An intolerable price'
Israel has said a main purpose of its Gaza operation is to seek and destroy tunnels dug by Hamas that stretch into the Jewish state. Israel views the tunnel network as a strategic threat intended to facilitate mass killing sprees on its civilians and soldiers. In a televised address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that the Israeli military will reassess its Gaza operation once troops complete the demolition of Hamas tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Once the tunnels are demolished, “the military will prepare for continuing action in according to our security needs,” he said, stressing all options remain on the table.
“We promised to return the quiet to Israel, and that is what we will do. We will continue to act until that goal is reached, however long it will take and with as much force needed,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas needs to understand that it will pay an intolerable price as far as it is concerned for continuing to fire.”
Since the Gaza war began July 8, at least 1,712 Palestinians, including many civilians, have been killed and more than 9,000 have been wounded, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israel has now lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, its highest death toll since its 2006 war with Lebanon's Hezbollah. Hundreds of soldiers have been wounded.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that Israel won't send a delegation to proposed truce talks in Cairo.
Speaking to Israel's Channel 10 television station, he alleged that Hamas repeatedly violated previous cease-fire deals.
“That leads us to the conclusion that with this organization, there is no point in speaking about an agreement or a cease-fire because we have tried it too many times,” Steinitz said.
Israel ended a previous major military operation in Gaza more than five years ago with a unilateral pullback.
There are signs of troop redeployments in Gaza in the latest conflict.
The Israeli military told residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya that it would be safe for them to return to their homes. The area, from which Gaza militants had fired rockets at Israel in the past, came under heavy tank fire during Israel's ground operation, forcing thousands to flee.
Israeli troops and tanks started a gradual pullback from the area east of the Gaza town of Khan Younis to the border with Israel, residents and police officials there said.
From an Israeli perspective, the advantage of a unilateral pullout or troop redeployment to the strip's fringes is that it can do so on its own terms, rather than becoming entangled in negotiations with Hamas. Hamas has said it will halt fire only if Israel and Egypt lift their 7-year-old border blockade of the territory.
However, a unilateral pullback does not address the underlying causes of cross-border tensions and carries the risk of a flare-up of violence, a prospect underlined by defiant Hamas messages on Saturday.
“We will continue to resist until we achieve our goals,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said after Netanyahu's speech, dismissing the Israeli leader's remarks as “confused.”