Hamas denies knowing captive officer’s whereabouts, says he may have died. IDF continues to blast Rafah
Hamas’ military wing issued a statement early Saturday, Aug. 2, claiming: “We have lost contact with the group of fighters that took part in the ambush [in which 2 soldiers were killed and 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, went missing in Rafah Friday] and we believe that they were all killed in the [Israeli] bombardment. Assuming that they managed to seize the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident,” the Hamas statement said, clearly trying to get off the hook of international condemnation and Israeli punishment.
All Friday night until early Saturday, Israeli jets, tanks and heavy artillery continued to pound parts of Rafah. The Palestinians say they have lost 150 dead, of whom 70 were killed in Rafah since Friday morning, when their “ambush,” was mounted 90 minutes after an international ceasefire went into effect.
debkafile’s military sources report on the findings of an inquiry into the Rafah attack, in which two Givati Brigade officers, Major Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba and St.-Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem, lost their lives. It turns out that the plan for the attack was devised in detail by Hamas and most likely Islamic Jihad for the abduction of an Israeli soldier.
An ambush squad of 10-15 commandos, some wearing large explosive vests, stole into the Seri district of Rafah early Friday, covered by a group of local civilians who, upon hearing that a ceasefire had gone into effect at 8 a.m. that morning, scattered to their homes.
The attackers then crept up to the building where the Givati troops were busy dealing with a tunnel.
At 9:30, two suicide bombers moved in on the Israeli team and blew themselves up.
The rest of the squad grabbed Lt. Goldin.
The attack and abduction were deliberately timed to occur after the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire announced by the US and UN went into effect.
Friday night, US President Barack Obama said that to sustain the ceasefire, Hamas must unconditionally release the Israeli officer who had been seized in the course of the truce, although he admitted to doubts about the Islamist terrorists “following through” on a ceasefire agreement.
This was a reference to Hamas violations of all five previous truces in the 25-day armed conflict in Gaza.
Israel’s security and policy-making cabinet ended a long meeting starting Friday and ending Saturday morning without releasing a statement. The IDF’s mode of attacks in and around Rafah, a town of some quarter of a million inhabitants, indicated that they are trying to trap Lt. Goldin’s abductors before they fled and went to ground, possibly with their captive.
Hamas and Jihad have tried time and again to kidnap Israeli soldiers. This time they took advantage of the ceasefire to achieve this goal.
The fate of the negotiations, scheduled to be launched between Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo Friday at the same time as the 72-hour ceasefire, is up in the air as far as Israel’s intentions are concerned.
Israel held off sending its delegation to Cairo Friday in outrage over the shock Hamas attack-cum-abduction in Rafah. Whether Netanyahu decides to respond to the US appeal, and send negotiators to Egypt on Sunday, may depend on the way matters evolve in the Gaza Strip Saturday, especially if the missing officer is found.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have still to reach a decision on whether to order the IDF to expand the harsh punitive operation devastating Rafah since Friday to other parts of the Gaza Strip.
As to the ceasefire, it is abundantly clear, as President too acknowledged Friday, that however any talks through Egyptian intermediaries may turn out, and whatever the parties may sign, Hamas can’t be counted on to follow through.
As the latest ceasefire attempt demonstrated, Islamic terrorists will seize on any cessation in hostilities for surprise attacks on Israeli soldiers and any civilian targets within reach, whether by ambush, rockets, or tunnel terror. So a signed deal if it happens may be a diplomatic breakthrough, but have little relevance on the field of combat in Gaza.