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Israel continues attack on Gaza

Israeli troops are searching for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas in an ambush.

Israeli soldiers organise the 155mm shells near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on 17 July, 2014. Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement have agreed on a ceasefire that will begin on Friday. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Israel continues its bombardment on the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Saturday as troops search for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas in an ambush.

But the Hamas military wing has distanced itself from the incident.

The current death toll in the Gaza strip is reported to be at 1650 and its estimated between 80 and 90 percent of the casualties are civilians.

Palestinians walk across the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes in Al-Salam neighbourhood, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on 1 August 2014. Picture: AFP.

President Barack Obama, UN Chief Ban Ki-moon and others have accused Hamas of violating an internationally brokered cease-fire and have called for the soldier's immediate release.

Obama says Hamas must take responsibility.

"I want to make sure they are listening. If they are serious about trying to resolve their situation, that soldier needs to unconditionally released as soon as possible."

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 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.