Israel calls off Gaza truce, intensive shelling kills dozens in Gaza

GAZA CITY: Israel declared an end to a three-day Gaza truce only hours after it began Friday, saying it fears one of its soldiers was captured, jeopardising world efforts for a durable ceasefire.

Intensive shelling killed dozens of people in southern Gaza hours into the short-lived truce, with Hamas accusing Israel of breaking the ceasefire and Israel saying it was responding to rocket fire.

The skies over Gaza had initially fallen silent after the humanitarian truce announced overnight by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the longest of several agreed since the conflict broke out on July 8.

Starting from 0500 GMT, it gave brief respite to people in the battered strip from fighting that has killed nearly 1,500 on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 63 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the other.

Within hours air raid sirens warning of rocket fire were heard on the Israeli side of the border, and heavy shelling was resumed in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, killing at least 35 people and wounding 100, medics said.

Shortly afterwards the Israeli army announced the ceasefire was over, saying it was searching for one of its soldiers feared to have been captured in the enclave.

“Our initial indications suggest a soldier has been abducted by terrorists in an incident where terrorists breached the ceasefire,” army spokesman Peter Lerner said.

The humanitarian truce was over and Israeli forces were pressing their “activities on the ground,” he said, before the military said two soldiers had been killed in the fighting and named the missing man as Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas and other Gaza militants of “flagrantly violating” the ceasefire.

Hamas hit back. “It is the (Israeli) occupation which violated the ceasefire. The Palestinian resistance acted based on… the right to self defence,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.