GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — At least 44 Palestinians are now reported dead in the violence that erupted in a southern Gaza town, as a cease-fire that began less than two hours earlier fell apart.
Israel and Hamas are accusing each other of breaking the truce.
The Israeli military says two of its soldiers were killed, and that an Israeli infantry officer may have been captured during fighting. If confirmed, the capture of the soldier -- identified as Hadar Goldin -- could dramatically change the direction of the conflict. Any cease-fire efforts would likely be put on hold, and Israel might instead expand its ground operation.
The breakdown of the truce and the apparent capture of the Israeli soldier set the stage for a major escalation of the 25-day-old conflict. According to Palestinian officials, the fighting has already killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians.
An Israeli army spokesman says an hour after today's cease-fire started, gunmen emerged from one or more Gaza tunnels and opened fire at Israeli soldiers, with at least one of the militants detonating an explosives vest.
Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation that Palestinian militants had "unilaterally and grossly" violated the cease-fire.
181-a-13-(Manuel Hassassian (man-WEHL' hah-SAHS'-ee-ahn), Palestinian Authority's diplomatic representive to the United Kingdom, in interview)-"faction in Gaza"-Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic representative to the U.K., says Israel was glad to have an excuse to again fire upon Gaza. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (1 Aug 2014)
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179-a-20-(Manuel Hassassian (man-WEHL' hah-SAHS'-ee-ahn), Palestinian Authority's diplomatic representive to the United Kingdom, in interview)-"of this prisoner"-Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic representative to the U.K., says if militants have captured an Israeli soldier, negotiations to turn the soldier back over could be useful. COURTESY: Sky News ((note cut length)) (1 Aug 2014)
<<CUT *179 (08/01/14)££ 00:20 "of this prisoner"
154-a-10-(Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, in AP interview)-"made just yesterday"-White House press secretary Josh Earnest says it looks as if Hamas broke the cease-fire almost immediately after it was supposed to take effect. (1 Aug 2014)
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APPHOTO SEB101: This undated photo shows Israeli Army 2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, central Israel. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 that Goldin was apparently captured by Hamas militants who came through a tunnel from the Gaza Strip and another two soldiers were killed. An hour after Friday's cease-fire started, gunmen emerged from one or more Gaza tunnels and opened fire at Israeli soldiers, with at least one of the militants detonating an explosives vest, said Lerner. Goldin was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken back into Gaza through a tunnel.(AP Photo/ YNet News) (1 Aug 2014)
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APPHOTO TSA116: Israeli reserved soldiers direct a Merkava tank to cross a road in the southern Israel as it advances towards the Israel Gaza border, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov) (1 Aug 2014)
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