Gaza conflict: Israel’s great fear is realised as soldier is seized in ambush that killed two more

Abducted Lieutenant reported to be cousin of Defence Minister and scion of family who emigrated from Britain


A 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, supposed to pave the way to a peace deal, collapsed into savage violence within three fateful hours after the Israeli military accused Hamas of breaking the truce with the capture of a soldier and killing of two others in an ambush using a suicide bomber.

The attack took place while Israeli forces were trying to destroy one of the network of  tunnels Hamas uses to carry out rocket attacks and infiltrate across the border. The captured soldier, it was reported, was Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, from a family of British Jewish immigrants and a cousin of the Israeli defence minister, Moshe Yaalon.

Hamas at first appeared to acknowledge that they had captured the soldier, but later denied that was the case. The abduction of its citizens has always provoked retaliation from the Jewish state: the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit eight years ago led to Israel’s first offensive back into Gaza after it had withdrawn from the territory.

US President Barack Obama called on Friday night for the soldier to be released and said the abduction would make it much harder to re-establish a ceasefire. “If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” he said. “A ceasefire was one way in which we could stop the killing. Trying to put that back together is going to be challenging.”

The residents of Rafah would not have known about the alleged abduction or the suicide bombing; but they experienced the fury of the Israeli military’s response. Artillery and tank rounds came crashing into the town, some of them hitting homes, shops and public buildings. This included part of the Yussef Al-Najjar Hospital, where the wounded were being ferried in by private cars, taxis, carried by hand.


By late afternoon, around 50 people are reported to have died, with the wounded, numbering over 200 being transferred, under fire, to other medical facilities in the area. But, as wounded were being taken out of the building, others were brought in.

Shahed Abu-Namla was picked up off the street and taken to an ambulance. She had been running down the street with her family when the shells started landing near them. The last thing she remembers before feeling excruciating pain and passing out was seeing her mother reach out and then fall. The-ten year-old girl was lying in the afternoon on a bed in the European Hospital at the edge of Rafah covered in serious burns, desperately asking about her mother.


Some of the casualties  had only returned to their homes in the town after the announcement of the truce. Wael al-Zambi arrived back at 9.30 in the morning to his house in the district of Mashrua Amar with his extended family of 18. They had taken refuge at a UN school in Shabura two weeks ago. But there was not even time to unpack, ten minutes later they were back on the road, trying to get away.

Mr Zambi 37, with shrapnel damage to his arms and body, recalled at the hospital : “We thought since this one was not just a few hours, but three days, it would be safe to go home. People at the [UN] school were saying that this may be the end of the fighting. So we set off; there were more than 3,000 people at the camp, 90 per cent of them left in the morning.

READ MORE: Revealed: Britain’s 'role' in arming Israel
Brian Eno: How can you justify images such as this?
Peter Schwartz responds to Brian Eno's open letter

“I don’t know why the bombing started. I got hit, I thought my body was being cut open. I only found out later about the deaths. My wife and children are back the UN place. These places are not safe, I know; they are getting bombed, but it’s better than being in Rafah.”

Two members of the family, Harbi, 55, and Sami, 40, died instantly. Three others: Salama, 48, Sofia, 43, and 47 year old Mohammed were killed later as they tried to get out by another road. A relation, Abdel Sheikh Eid, had come to the hospital on hearing about the injured being transferred there. He had just taken a call on his mobile from a cousin. “She wants to know about her husband. He is not going to live, but I can’t tell her that on the phone”, he said.

Ahmad Al Kafarna, aged 7, cries on the remains of his home in Beit Hanun, the northern Gaza Strip, yesterday Ahmad Al Kafarna, aged 7, cries on the remains of his home in Beit Hanun, the northern Gaza Strip, yesterday (EPA)

There were patients at the hospital from other parts of Gaza on transit for specialist treatment abroad. But, with the Rafah Crossing into Egypt shut due to the fighting, they were stuck there, with sounds of bombardment nearing.

Among them were two boys hit by a missile strike at the Beach Camp in Gaza City in which ten other young boys and the grandfather of one of them had died. Hamas and the Israeli military had blamed each other for the lethal assault.

READ MORE: 'When Genocide is Permissible' article removed from The Times of Israel website
What we do (and don't) know about the ceasefire collapse
Wonder Woman Gal Gadot is pro-IDF

Zahar al-Aila, was trying to get his ten year old nephew Mohammed  back to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where he had been initially treated. But he had been told “there is no bed left for him at Shifa, it’s full. I just want to take him back to Gaza City, but they say haven’t got any ambulances to spare. They  warned me against driving him back, because the road was dangerous.”

Mohammed al-Aila, covered in bandages, whispered: “Please, I need help to get back to Shifa, I don’t like it here. You can hear lots of bombs, it’s very frightening.”

Israeli Merkava tanks drive through trees in southern Israel as they advance towards the Israel Gaza border Israeli Merkava tanks drive through trees in southern Israel as they advance towards the Israel Gaza border (AP)
Nine year old Rami Abdel al-Helo was another survivor at the hospital from Beach Camp. A five year old brother, Osama and their grandfather, Sobhay  al-Helo, had died in the attack . His father, Ahmed, said: “I can’t see Rafah opening soon with all this firing going on. I have lost a son already and I must protect this one. With the ceasefire, we thought this would be a good day to get out, but now I fear it’s just going to get much worse.”

Medical staff were gathered around Shahed abu-Namla’s bed. “She keeps asking for water and she want to know about her family” said a nurse, Halina Um Abdullah. “But no one knows what happened, there were a lot of fatalities where this girl was found, so one has to fear for the rest of the family. The ambulances cannot go back in and search until there is another ceasefire, whenever that will be. We can just pray it happens.”

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album