JERUSALEM — An Israeli soldier is missing after a deadly battle in the Gaza Strip, a defense official said Tuesday, as Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of targets along the coastal area. Diplomatic efforts intensified to end the two week war that has killed more than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis.
It was not immediately known whether the missing soldier was alive or dead, the Israeli defense official said. The disappearance raised the possibility that he had been captured by Hamas. In the past, Israel has paid a heavy price in lopsided prisoner swaps to retrieve captured soldiers or remains held by its enemies.
Military officials said the soldier, identified as Sgt. Oron Shaul, was among seven soldiers in a vehicle that was hit by an anti-tank missile in a battle in Gaza over the weekend. The other six have been confirmed as dead, but no remains have been identified as Shaul, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident with media.
Hamas' claimed earlier this week that it had captured an Israeli soldier. Israel's U.N. ambassador initially denied the claim but the military neither confirmed nor denied it.
A representative of Shaul's family, Racheli Gazit, said that "so long as the verification has not been completed ... as far as the family is concerned Oron is not a fallen soldier."