The Israeli military said Sunday it had determined that Hadar Goldin, a soldier thought to have been captured by Palestinian militants during a deadly clash in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, had in fact been killed in action.
A special committee led by the army's chief rabbi confirmed that Lieutenant Goldin had been "killed in battle in the Gaza Strip on Friday", the Israeli military said in a statement.
Military radio said that no body had been recovered, adding that this made the decision to announce Goldin's death a "very delicate" one.
The soldier’s purported capture Friday had helped shatter an internationally brokered cease-fire, drawn global condemnation and triggered a military assault on the area of his disappearance in southern Gaza that left dozens of Palestinians dead and scores of homes destroyed.
Hamas' armed wing had acknowledged that its militants staged an ambush early Friday in which two other Israeli soldiers were killed, but denied holding Goldin. It said it believed the fighters and possibly Lt Goldin had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
The announcement of his death came amid signs that Israel is scaling back its 27-day-old ground operation in Gaza.
Israel withdraws some ground forces
In a televised address late Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested troops would reassess the operation after completing the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down.
The army informed residents of Beit Lahiya and Al-Atatra in the north that it was "safe" to return home. Troops and tanks were also seen pulling out of villages east of Khan Yunis in the south, in the first such moves since the Israeli operation began last month.
At the same time, Netanyahu warned that Hamas would pay an "intolerable price" if it continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table. Israeli air strikes early on Sunday killed 11 Palestinians in the southern town of Rafah and in central Gaza City, emergency services said.
The Gaza violence has claimed more than 1,700 Palestinian lives – mostly civilians – and displaced up to a quarter of the territory's population. Goldin's death brings Israeli army deaths to 64 since the start of hostilities on July 8, its heaviest toll since the 2006 war against the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
Date created : 2014-08-03