91 Palestinians killed

More than 1,650 Palestinians have been killed in the past 26 days.

FILE: Palestinian women react amid the destruction in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during a humanitarian truce on 26 July, 2014. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - At least 91 Palestinians have been killed and another 350 injured in Israeli attacks as a hoped-for ceasefire disintegrated.

This came after US President Barack Obama blamed the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, for violating a 72-hour humanitarian truce in Gaza, which barely lasted two hours.

Obama accused Hamas of being behind the capture of an Israeli soldier, Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, breaking the ceasefire.

This has been denied by Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan who says the US president is not reflecting both sides in a balanced manner.

However, Obama says the main objective is a ceasefire.

"We're going to keep working towards that and it will take some time. It will be hard to put a ceasefire back together if Israel and the international community don't feel confident that Hamas will follow through on the ceasefire commitment."

More than 1,650 Palestinians have been killed in the past 26 days.


Hamas said on Saturday it had no clear indication on the whereabouts of an Israeli soldier, adding he may have been killed during an ambush.

A latest signal that the ceasefire was over came at daybreak when Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system shot down two militant rockets over the Tel Aviv area and a third over Beersheba.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his security cabinet into special session and warned Hamas and other militant groups they would "bear the consequences of their actions". No announcement was made after the meeting.

But a statement by Hamas's armed wing said it had no contact with militants who were operating in the southern Gaza Strip where Israel said Goldin went missing.

"We have lost contact with the group of fighters that took part in the ambush and we believe they were all killed in the [Israeli] bombardment. Assuming that they managed to seize the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident," the statement said.

At least 1,592 Gazans have been killed since the start of hostilities on 8 July when Israel launched its drive to halt militant rocket fire on its territory from the coastal enclave by unleashing air and naval bombardments. Tanks and infantry pushed into the territory of 1.8 million people on 17 July.

Obama said he has been in constant contact with Netanyahu about the situation, and added that more needed to be done to protect Palestinian civilians.

In a boost to Israel, the US Congress approved $225 million in emergency funding for Iron Dome, sending the measure to Obama to be signed into law.

Additional reporting by Reuters.