Hamas armed wing claims capture of Israeli soldier
A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing said on Sunday the group had captured an Israeli soldier during fighting in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported, prompting celebrations in the streets of Gaza City.
Speaking on a Hamas-aligned television station, the masked spokesman, who went by the name of Abu Ubaida, said “we have captured a Zionist soldier and the occupation has not admitted that.”
“The Israeli soldier Shaul Aaron is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said they were aware of the claim and were investigating.
AFP correspondents said there were celebrations in the streets of West Bank cities Ramallah and Hebron following Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades’ announcement, with Palestinians shooting guns in the air and praising Hamas.
Hamas last kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2006.
He was held until 2011, when he was freed in exchange for more than 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom have subsequently been rearrested by Israel.
The claim came on day 13 of the latest flare-up in violence between Israel and Hamas, which has seen the deaths of more than 430 Palestinians and 18 Israelis.
The Qassam Brigades said the soldier had been kidnapped 24 hours earlier during an ambush on Israeli forces in the Tuffah district on the eastern edges of Gaza City.
There has been heavy fighting on the eastern edges of Gaza, with Israel saying Sunday that 13 soldiers had been killed in violence overnight.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the news in a statement.
“The announcement by the Qassam Brigades of the capture of a Zionist soldier is a great victory and revenge for the blood of the martyrs,” he said.
The claim came on day 13 of the latest flare-up in violence between Israel and Hamas, which has seen the deaths of 438 Palestinians and 20 Israelis, 18 of them soldiers.
More than 60 Palestinians were killed in the Shejaiya district alone overnight and into Sunday morning in heavy Israeli tank fire.
The current round of conflict began on July 8, with Israel announcing on July 17 that it would undertake ground operations in Gaza.