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Associated Press
Flames spread across buildings after Israeli strikes in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Israeli official: Israeli soldier missing in Gaza

Associated Press
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

– An Israeli soldier is missing following a deadly battle in the Gaza Strip, a defense official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

It was not clear if the soldier was dead or alive. The development adds a potential complication to intensive diplomatic efforts meant to end more than two weeks of fighting between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers that has killed at least 570 Palestinians and 29 Israelis.

The defense official said the soldier went missing after a deadly battle in Gaza over the weekend and it was not immediately clear if he was dead or alive. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident with the media.

Israeli media, meanwhile, said the soldier went missing while he was traveling in an armored personnel carrier that came under attack over the weekend in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israel says is a major source for rocket fire against its civilians.

The reports, which were not confirmed by the military, did not say if the soldier was dead or alive. Some media said the soldier was likely dead.

Military spokesman Peter Lerner said on Twitter that out of seven Israeli soldiers attacked on Sunday, Israel has been able to identify six.

Hamas earlier this week claimed it had captured an Israeli soldier. Israel’s U.N. ambassador initially denied the claim but the military neither confirmed nor denied it.

In the past Israel has paid a heavy price to retrieve its soldiers – dead or alive – captured by its enemies.

For Israelis, a captured soldier would be a nightmare scenario. Hamas-allied militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid in 2006 and held him captive in Gaza until Israel traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom were involved in grisly killings, for his return in 2011.

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