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Gaza truce subsides in wave of violence

Saturday 02 Aug 2014 7:50a.m.

Gaza truce subsides in wave of violence

A humanitarian truce in Gaza collapsed only hours after it began Friday (local time) amid a deadly new wave of violence and the apparent capture by Hamas of an Israeli soldier.

Intensive shelling killed dozens of people in southern Gaza hours into the truce, which began at 8am on Friday (local time) and was due to last 72 hours.

But the ceasefire was short-lived, with Hamas accusing Israel of breaking it and the Jewish state saying it was responding to militant rocket fire.

With Israel's security cabinet reported to be meeting later on Friday (local time), the chances of a durable truce seemed as remote as ever after the probable capture of Israeli Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23.

The military also announced that two soldiers had been killed in the same incident near the southern city of Rafah.

"Our initial indications suggest a soldier has been abducted by terrorists in an incident where terrorists breached the ceasefire," according to army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner.

He said a suicide bomber blew himself up, adding that first reports "indicate that a soldier was seized".

In 2006, militants from Gaza captured Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners.

Friday's short truce gave brief respite to people in the battered Strip from fighting that has killed more than 1500 on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 63 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the other.

Within hours, air raid sirens were heard on the Israeli side, and heavy shelling resumed in Rafah, killing at least 62 people and wounding more than 350, medics said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office accused Hamas and other Gaza militants of "flagrantly violating" the ceasefire.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum riposted that "it is the [Israeli] occupation which violated the ceasefire. The Palestinian resistance acted based on... the right to self defence."

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad later said Egypt was postponing talks after news of the Israeli soldier's capture, but Cairo said the invitation to talk was "still in place".

And Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said a joint delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will travel to Cairo on Saturday (local time) for talks despite the renewed fighting.