Middle East

Gaza conflict: Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin 'dead'

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Media captionHadar Goldin, 23, went missing after clashes between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters in southern Gaza

Israel's army says a soldier reported missing in Gaza on Friday is dead, after investigations in the Rafah area.

Hadar Goldin was believed to have been captured by militants during fighting, leading to the collapse of a ceasefire shortly after it had been declared.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said the operation in Gaza will continue until it restores security to Israelis.

Health officials in Gaza say 30 Palestinians died early on Sunday as Israeli air strikes continued.

Israeli media also reported fresh militant rocket attacks into Israel.

Media reports also say that Israeli forces have withdrawn from some areas of Gaza to a "temporary security strip" to reassess operations.

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Media caption"Death and destruction": The BBC's Ian Pannell reports from inside Rafah

The Gaza officials say that 1,740 Palestinians have now been killed and 9,080 injured since the conflict began more than three weeks ago.

Confirmation of Lt Goldin's death means 66 Israelis have now died in the fighting, all but two of them soldiers. A Thai worker in Israel also died.

The Israel Defense Forces say 3,127 rockets have been fired from Gaza since 8 July.

DNA evidence

Hamas had denied it was holding the 23-year-old Lt Goldin captive, saying it did not know the soldier's whereabouts.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The soldier's family spoke to press outside their home in Kfar Saba after being told of his death
Image copyright AP
Image caption Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has promised that Hamas will pay an "intolerable price" for attacks on Israel

The military wing of the Islamist group said it had lost contact with some fighters in the area where Israel said the soldier had been seized.

It said it believed the fighters and possibly Lt Goldin had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Israel's defence minister and the chief military rabbi met the soldier's family at their home in the town of Kfar Saba on Saturday night.

Hundreds of well-wishers had gathered outside their home and there was an outpouring of grief when the military's announcement was made public.

It is understood the army came to its conclusion after examining DNA evidence, reports the BBC's Bethany Bell in Jerusalem. No body has been found.

'Intolerable price'

Earlier, Mr Netanyahu vowed to continue the Israeli offensive in Gaza until "we achieve our objective of restoring security to you, Israeli's citizens".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas broke down after Israel said Lt Goldin had been captured
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Unrwa spokesman Chris Gunness says an estimated 460,000 people have been displaced in the Gaza Strip

"Hamas again mistakenly believes that the people of Israel do not have the will and determination to fight them and Hamas again will learn the hard way that Israel will do whatever it must do to protect its people," he said.

The Islamist group would pay an "intolerable price" for attacks on Israel, Mr Netanyahu added.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum dismissed Mr Netanyahu's comments as "confused" and said the group would "continue to resist until we achieve our goals".

Meanwhile, a United Nations spokesman in Gaza has warned that a "health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding" there after three weeks of intense conflict.

Chris Gunness from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) says Gaza's medical services are "on the verge of collapse".

"At least half of all public health primary care clinics in Gaza are closed," he said, adding that the medical facilities still functioning are overwhelmed.

He also warned that there was a serious risk of an outbreak of waterborne and communicable diseases because of a lack of adequate water and poor sanitation.

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