An Israeli Soldier was captured Sunday, according to a Hamas spokesman, as the deadliest day of fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas continued to explode in an Israeli offensive that is nearing the end of its second week, according to a CNN report.
The Israeli solider was allegedly captured during an “early morning operation”, said Abu Obeida, the spokesman representing Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades. Obeida said they captured the Israeli soldier during the battle in Shejaia where 13 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives. The war ravaged neighborhood east of the city of Gaza was also the site of many Palestinian casualties on Sunday.
The Israeli military was checking the validity of their soldier’s capture, which Hamas announced on a television broadcast, reports Reuters. Israeli television stations, meanwhile, reportedly paid no attention to Hamas’ claim of a captured Israeli soldier, despite Hamas’ insistent announcements:
“Qassam Brigades captured a Zionist soldier,” said Abu Ubaida, shrouded in his Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades mask. Abu Obeida identified the captured soldier as Shaul Aron and read what he said was the captured Israeli soldier’s identity tag number. “He is a prisoner, and if Zionists lie about the dead and wounded, then the fate of this soldier is their responsibility.”
Other evidence that an Israeli soldier was captured by the Islamist militants was not forthcoming from the masked spokesman. But that didn’t seem to matter to Hamas supporters who reportedly celebrated news of the captured Israeli soldier with cheers and gunfire.
“It’s a game changer, immediately, because it’s going to change what the Israelis are doing on the ground in that sector,” said CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. “They’re going to be looking for him… Overall, the Israeli strategy is not going to change. They’re committed to this mission.” Though Francona did acknowledge that the Israelis are “going to have to make some sort of accommodation to get this guy back.”
Francona was referring to the fact that the last Israeli soldier captured in Gaza in 2006, Gilad Shalit, was held for 5 years before being released in exchange for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Along with the captured soldier, the Israeli military hadn’t experienced such a large death toll since its 2006 war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The Palestinian side also suffered its most killed since the conflict started on July 8.
According to Israeli Army officials, of the thirteen Israeli soldiers killed, seven were in an armored personnel carrier struck by anti-tank fire. The six others were killed while establishing positions inside houses during the fierce fighting.
It is not known if the captured Israeli soldier is alive or dead, or where he might be being held.