On Thursday, the United States and the United Nations announced that there would be a 72-hour unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, starting at 8 A.M. Friday.
Although the ceasefire was meant to last three days, it was only in place for two hours. The New York Times reported that, “the Israeli military announced that two soldiers had been killed and a third apparently captured by Palestinian militants who emerged from a tunnel near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.”
According to The Guardian, “Israeli tank fire on the southern town of Rafah was reported to have killed at least 40 Palestinians, turning what was intended to be the first day of calm into one of the deadliest days in Gaza so far.”
Hamas released a statement accusing Israel of breaking the ceasefire, and saying that the declaration of captured Israeli soldiers was meant to “cover up the barbaric massacres, especially in Rafah.”
A spokesman for the Israeli army, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said that the missing soldier, who was identified as 23-year-old Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, was captured by Hamas militants while Israeli forces were working to destroy one of Hamas’s underground tunnels.
While Friday’s ceasefire was called for by the United Nations, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was not in favor. Netanyahu told UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon that calling a ceasefire in Gaza would meet the needs of Hamas, but not of Israel.
Last week, the Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, spoke out at a news conference in Qatar. “Everyone wanted us to accept a ceasefire and then negotiate for our rights,” said Meshaal. “We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices.”
“We need to be ready for a prolonged campaign,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday. Despite each ceasefire that has been called during the last three weeks, he has kept Israeli troops in Gaza, maintaining that they are there to destroy the network of tunnels built by Hamas.
As a result of this conflict, 62 Israeli soldiers, 3 Israeli civilians, 191 Palestinian militants, and 1,244 Palestinian civilians have lost their lives thus far.
“Israel says its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished scores of Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border that militants use to infiltrate Israel and smuggle weapons,” reported The Washington Post. “Hamas says it will not cease fire until it receives international guarantees Gaza’s 7-year-old border blockade by Egypt and Israel will be lifted.“