December 21, 2014
More than 100 killed in Gaza's bloodiest day
Hamas's armed wing said it had captured an Israeli soldier, as fighting in Gaza led to the bloodiest losses in a nearly two-week military offensive, with some 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers killed.
The Israeli military said it was checking on the reported capture, which was announced in a Hamas television broadcast. Israeli television stations ignored the report in their extended evening programming about the offensive.
"Qassam Brigades captured a Zionist soldier," said Abu Ubaida, the masked spokesman of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who identified the soldier as Shaul Aron and recited what he said was Aron's identity tag number.
He provided no other evidence the soldier was in the custody of the Islamist militants.
Ubaida said the capture happened during the same battle in which 13 Israeli soldiers died earlier, near Shejaia, the embattled neighborhood east of the city of Gaza where most of the Palestinian casualties occurred on Sunday.
The one-day death toll was the highest for the Israeli military's since a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. It also represented the most Palestinians killed since fighting began on July 8.
Aron would be the first Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza since 2011, when Israel released about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to free Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was held for more than five years after his 2006 capture in a cross-border raid.
Cries of celebration and fireworks were heard around Gaza shortly after the Hamas broadcast on Sunday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a massacre in Shejaia and declared three days of mourning.
Israel's army said it had been targeting militants from Gaza's dominant Hamas group, whom it alleged had fired rockets from Shejaia and built tunnels and command centres there. The army said it had warned locals two days earlier to leave.
Army sources said seven of the 13 Israeli soldiers were in an armoured personnel carrier hit by anti-tank fire. Others were killed setting up positions inside houses they had taken over, the sources added.
Residents fled today's fighting along streets strewn with bodies and rubble, many of them taking shelter in Gaza's Shifa hospital.
Cries of "Did you see Ahmed?" "Did you see my wife?" echoed through the courtyard. Inside, dead and wounded lay on blood-stained floors.