Before Kidnapping, Hamas Was No-Show in Egypt
Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, the former leader of the Israeli Defense Forces hostage negotiating team, told a conference call Friday morning that Hamas had failed to send a negotiating team to Cario, Egypt as expected--suggesting, he said, that Hamas already knew it planned to mount a kidnapping effort that would break the ceasefire.
The attack and kidnapping occurred at 9:30 a.m. local time, 90 minutes after a 72-hour truce began.
Hamas sent a suicide bomber through a tunnel that Israeli soldiers were preparing to destroy. In the ensuing attack, two soldiers were killed and one, Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, was kidnapped.
The incident ended any pretense of a ceasefire and represented a major setback for Israel, as well as an embarrassment for the U.S., which had pressed Israel to accept a ceasefire for several weeks, and for Egypt, which brokered the ceasefire.
In a telephone call Friday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he had been deceived by Hamas, the Times of Israel reports. Hamas negotiators are again expected in Egypt as part of a delegation from the Palestinian Authority unity government. The U.S. has called the kidnapping "absolutely outrageous" and demanded that Hamas return the soldier to Israel.
Hamas will likely arrive at the negotiations--if they continue as planned--with great additional leverage. According to Col. Lotan, the challenge for Israel would be to handle the situation calmly and professionally, sticking to its original strategic goals without handing Hamas a trophy in negotiations.
The Israeli military is continuing its search for Goldin and has vowed that Hamas will pay a heave price for violating the truce.