Why captured Israeli soldier raises the stakes for Israel and Hamas

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from CS Monitor,

The IDF is bombing the southern Gaza Strip after a soldier went missing this morning in a clash with Hamas militants. Captured Israeli soldiers can give Hamas significant leverage.

The suspected Hamas capture of an Israeli soldier this morning has sparked a heavy Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip, shattering the 72-hour cease-fire that began at 8 a.m. and scuppering talks in Egypt for a final agreement.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was dragged into a tunnel at 9:30 a.m. in clashes involving a Palestinian suicide bomber that killed two other soldiers. Hamas military wing Al Qassam Brigades said in a statement that its fighters had wounded and killed “many” soldiers in Rafah, but did not mention a capture.

If Goldin is confirmed to be in Hamas hands, it would represent a major triumph for the Islamist movement, which seeks the release of more than 400 operatives arrested last month as well as a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The capture of Israeli soldiers resonates deeply in Israeli society, with each soldier seen as a son whom the nation has the responsibility to bring home. In 2011, Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinians prisoners for Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who became a household name during his five-year captivity, with everyone from activists to pop artists lobbying the government to secure his release.

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