JERUSALEM (JTA) – An Israeli soldier is missing, the Israeli army confirmed, though it is widely presumed he is dead.
On Tuesday, more than a day after Hamas said it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the soldier was missing but indicated it was highly unlikely that anyone could have survived the explosion on the armored vehicle in which he was riding.
The missing soldier – identified by the IDF as Oron Shaul, 21, of Poriya Illit in northern Israel – is believed to have been one of seven troops from the Golani Brigade killed early Sunday morning in the Hamas bombing of their vehicle.
A spokeswoman for Shaul’s family said later in the day that until the IDF can prove the soldier is dead, they will continue to believe he is alive.
“As long as the identification process hasn’t finished, and there are no unequivocal findings, he is still alive in the family’s eyes,” Racheli Gazit told reporters.
On Monday night, the families of the seven soldiers were briefed by the IDF on the attack and the identification of the bodies.
“The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined,” the IDF said in a statement.
Hamas claimed late Sunday night that it was holding an Israeli soldier, which it named as Shaul Aron. A Hamas spokesman did not say whether the soldier was alive or dead, but displayed his photo ID and provided his army serial number.
Following the announcement of the alleged capture by Hamas’ military wing late Sunday night, fireworks and celebrations were held in cities including Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.