Israel bombarded the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Saturday after it was reported that an Israeli soldier had been captured by Palestinian resistance fighters.
Hamas has denied capturing an Israeli soldier, saying the missing trooper might have been killed in Israeli bombardment on Friday after Tel Aviv violated an internationally brokered three-day ceasefire.
Hamas military wing Qassam Brigades has said in a statement that it is not aware of the missing soldier's whereabouts or the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.
At least 35 Palestinians were killed in Israeli bombardment and shelling in and around Rafah early Saturday, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra, adding the city’s main hospital was evacuated because of the strikes.
Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinian officials reported more than 150 airstrikes, including one against the Islamic University in Gaza City.
Friday’s escalation came after Israel abruptly ended a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire with Hamas only a few hours after it began.
According to Tel Aviv, the Israeli death toll currently stands at 66, including 63 soldiers and three civilians. However, Hamas puts the figure at about 150 which is the heaviest loss of life for the Israeli military in years.
The Palestinian death toll from Israel’s 26 days of onslaught on Gaza has now reached nearly 1,650, with 9,000 people injured. Most of the casualties have been civilians, including a large number of women and children.
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