UPDATE: A 72-hour ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was called off a mere two hours after it began at 8 a.m. Friday morning. Code Red sirens rang out in southern Israel at about 10 a.m., just as Palestinian media reports of Israeli artillery fire began to surface. Mortar shells were reportedly fired from within Gaza landed near the border with Israel. Palestinian medical sources reported that at least 40 Gaza residents were killed and dozens of others wounded by subsequent Israeli artillery fire that targeted southern Gaza.
The Israeli army confirmed that a soldier was kidnapped by Hamas operatives near Rafah this morning. Extensive searches are being conducted to resolve the situation. The captive soldier was named as 2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba. Two soldiers were also killed during the same incident in which the soldier was captured.
Meanwhile, Palestinians on Friday staged a number of protests across the West Bank against the war in Gaza. One protester in Tul Karm was killed. Other demonstrations were held in Hebron, Qalandiya, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Ni’lin and near the Ofer military prison. Ninety people were reportedly wounded in Hebron.
A heavy night of bombing in Gaza was followed by the announcement of a 72-hour humanitarian truce that took effect at 8 a.m. local time. Reuters reported that Israeli and Palestinian delegations were set to travel to Cairo immediately after the temporary truce began for negotiations with Egyptian officials to try and broker a permanent ceasefire agreement.
Following the announcement of the 3-day truce, Hamas stated that the Palestinian factions would abide by the temporary ceasefire; however, Israel said it would continue its mission to destroy Hamas infiltration tunnels regardless of efforts to reach a ceasefire.
Sixteen Palestinians were killed overnight as the Israeli army hit more than 40 targets, bringing the death toll in Gaza to 1,459, with 8,295 wounded. On Thursday the death toll surpassed the 1,391 killed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.
According to Ma’an News Agency, Gaza’s Housing Ministry estimates the damage caused by Israel’s military operation at $4 billion, with 5,238 buildings having been completely destroyed.
The Israeli army cleared for publication early Friday the deaths of five of its soldiers in an mortar attack near the border with Gaza on Thursday, raising the military death toll since the start of Operation Protective Edge to 61.
Different Palestinian factions were reportedly calling for protests throughout the West Bank after Friday midday prayers in solidarity with those in Gaza.