​Israel bombards Gaza while searching for missing soldier

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israel continued to ramp up its offensive in Gaza Saturday, bombarding the southern town of Rafah as troops searched for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas militants.

The alleged capture triggered a new and ongoing onslaught on southern Gaza. At least 35 Palestinians were killed in the bombardment and shelling in and around Rafah early Saturday, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra, adding that the area's main hospital was evacuated because of the strikes, which killed dozens of people on Friday.

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Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a building hit in an Israeli strike, in Rafah, August 2, 2014. Dozens in Gaza were killed after the collapse of a U.N.- and U.S.-backed ceasefire, officials said Saturday.
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

As correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports from Tel Aviv, Hamas has launched more rockets on Israel -- making Friday's shattered humanitarian cease-fire a distant memory.

Israeli forces are now focusing their attention and firepower on two priorities: smashing what's left of Hamas' weapons and tunnels, and finding the missing Israeli soldier.

The Israeli military says 23-year-old Hadar Goldin disappeared in an ambush on the southern end of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas fighters sprung from a tunnel. A suicide bomber blew himself up, killing two Israeli soldiers. Israel accuses militants of then dragging Goldin into a tunnel.


In Gaza overnight, Israeli strikes pummeled the area where 2nd Lt. Goldin disappeared.

D'Agata reports that Hamas said today they have no idea where Golden could be, having lost contact with its fighters involved in the clashes; they believe he may have been killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Goldin's father, Simha, said, "We are certain that the military will not stop until they have turned every stone and brought Hadar home safe and sound."

Israeli officials have been holding an emergency cabinet meeting to try to figure out what to do next.

There was no immediate announcement on a course of action, but an official in the prime minister's office said Israel "expects the United States and the international community to respond strongly to a terror organization that so blatantly defies them."


The official, who spoke anonymously because there was no official Israeli announcement, said "Hamas and other terror groups will bear the consequences of their actions."

Overnight in Tel Aviv, D'Agata reports air raid sirens were heard, a sign that Hamas had fired missiles towards the city. The IDF says that Hamas have fired 3,000 rockets since this 26-day conflict began.

Meanwhile, Egypt says that they are open to holding talks to try to salvage some kind of truce. Palestinians say they're on board; it is unclear if Israelis will be talking part.

President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others have accused Hamas of violating the cease-fire and have called for the soldier's immediate and unconditional release.

Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinian officials reported more than 150 airstrikes including several against mosques and one against the Hamas-linked Islamic University in Gaza City. Heavy shelling continued along the border areas.

The Israeli military said it struck 200 targets over the previous 24 hours. It said it attacked five mosques that concealed weapons and that the Islamic University was being used as a research and weapons manufacturing site for Hamas.

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A wounded Palestinian girl arrives at the hospital in Rafah, August 2, 2014, following an Israeli military strike.
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images
The fiercest battles took place near the site of Friday's attack and purported abduction, near Rafah, about three kilometers inside the strip and close to the borders with Israel and Egypt. Officials have reported that dozens of houses have been damaged or destroyed in airstrikes.

The disappearance of Goldin, and the heavy clashes that followed it, ended an internationally-brokered cease-fire that was to have been in place for three days and open the way for talks in Cairo on a more sustainable truce. Israel and Hamas have accused each other of violating the humanitarian pause.

Since fighting began on July 8, more than 1,650 Palestinians -- mostly civilians -- have been killed and more than 8,000 wounded, according to al-Kidra.

Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians, its highest death toll since the 2006 Lebanon war. Hundreds of other soldiers have been wounded.

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