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

Refah

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state: the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit eight years ago led to Israel’s first offensive back into Gaza after it had withdrawn from the territory.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.”

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam