Hamas denies snatching Israeli 'dual citizen' who had lived in the UK
Britain has expressed dismay at the apparent abduction of an Israeli soldier.
He was allegedly taken as a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza dramatically collapsed, threatening a further escalation of the bloodshed and violence.
Israel said that Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin – who is believed to have lived in Britain for a time – was seized by Hamas fighters less than two hours after the start of a supposed three-day humanitarian truce.
The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has denied capturing the missing Israeli soldier.
Hamas accused the Israelis of using it as cover for the "massacre" which ensued in the town of Rafah where at least 35 Palestinians were reported to have been killed and around 200 injured.
The al-Qasaam Brigades said: "We have no idea about where the Israeli soldier is or what is the situation.
"We lost contact with the group who made the suicide mission near Rafah after it was done.
"We believe everyone in this group was killed by an Israeli air strike including the Israeli soldier who the Israelis are talking about having disappeared."
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond played down reports emanating from the Israeli media that the 23-year-old soldier had dual British-Israeli citizenship.
"We have no information to support those reports. We have heard them, we are looking into it but we have no information to suggest that he is a British citizen," he said.
He warned however that his apparent abduction would have serious consequences, as at least 35 Palestinians were reported to have died in renewed Israeli shelling.
"If the reports that Hamas broke the ceasefire are correct then that is very serious indeed, as is the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier which will make it all the more difficult to re-establish the ceasefire to allow a humanitarian pause in Gaza," Mr Hammond said.
Rabbi Reuven Leigh, a chaplain at Cambridge University and a rabbi in the community, said that Lt Goldin – who has a twin brother also serving with the Israeli military in Gaza – had lived in the city for a number of years.
"Shaken to hear of Hadar Goldin's kidnapping, he spent a few years living in Cambridge with his family, please pray for his safe return," he wrote on his Twitter feed.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed "dismay and revulsion" at the feared abduction.
"We urge the Government to show its support for the Goldin family and to speak out against this deplorable act by the terrorist group Hamas and do everything in its power to secure his release," a spokesman said. Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said Lt Goldin had been with Israeli soldiers searching for Hamas tunnels in southern Gaza when he was apparently taken.
"Some terrorists came out of the ground.
"One of them had a suicide belt on and blew himself up.
"Others came out and carried out some shooting and gun fight," he said.
"In the aftermath of that, we had two soldiers killed in this attack, and indeed Lt Goldin was supposedly abducted from the site."
Col Lerner accused Hamas of using the humanitarian ceasefire – brokered by the United States and the United Nations – as a "cover" to carry out the attack while Israeli forces "were holding our fire".
But Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoun said: "The Israelis are the ones who breached the ceasefire, and the Palestinian resistance acted in a way that ensures its right of self-defence."
In Belfast hundreds of people gathered to take part in a protest over coverage of the Gaza conflict. Protesters assembled outside BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast city centre just after 5pm last night and part of Ormeau Avenue was blocked.
Israelis remain scarred by the memory of the capture of another soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was also seized by Hamas militants in Gaza. He was eventually released in October 2011 after more than five years in captivity, but only in exchange for the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
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