As Hamas Claims It Has Israeli Soldier, Diplomats Try Again For Peace

Hamas is claiming it has a missing Israeli soldier, according to several reports out of Gaza. The Washington Post reported that the soldier was unaccounted for after “a bloody seven-hour battle Sunday” in the war-torn region.

Hamas’ original announcement Sunday was met by denial from Israeli officials. But on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the country’s military, said that it was investigating the missing remains of a seventh soldier involved in an attack on an armored personnel carrier Sunday. That incident resulted in the deaths of the other six Israeli soldiers known to be in the vehicle.

“We have positively identified six dead soldiers, and we still need to determine if the seventh soldier is missing,” Lerner said, according to the Post.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the missing soldier is 21-year-old Sgt. Oron Shaul. A spokesperson for Shaul’s family was quoted as saying, “As long as the identification process hasn’t finished, and there are no unequivocal findings, he is still alive in the family’s eyes.”

On Sunday, a spokesman for Hamas said Shaul had been captured, but only showed an Israeli army ID and serial number, leading to skepticism of whether he had, in fact, been captured by the militant group.

Meanwhile, world leaders are renewing a push for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Gaza. To that end, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in Cairo on Tuesday. According to a Fox News report, Kerry said that the talks would “hopefully find not only a way to a cease-fire, but a way to deal with the underlying issues, which are very complicated.”

Fox News also reports that Kerry “met early Tuesday with Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj, and was expected to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Arab League President Nabil Elaraby and other top officials over the next few days.”

As we reported previously, Kerry said on Sunday, “Hamas has to understand you can’t just sit there and claim a moral rectitude or the higher ground while you’re busy rocketing people and capturing people and digging tunnels to attack them.”

On Monday in Washington, President Barack Obama said that he had “instructed [Kerry] to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement.”

Obama also pointed to “serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.”

The New York Times reported Monday that two Americans were among the 13 Israeli soldiers who died in Sunday’s fighting. The two American-born soldiers were 24-year-old Max Steinberg of Los Angeles, Calif., and Nissim Sean Carmeli of Texas.

[photo: Al-Akhbar]