Israel launches Gaza strikes over captured soldier

Sunday’s attack, which saw gunmen tunnel their way into Israel in an assault that has raised questions over possible military and intelligence failings, was the deadliest in the area since Israel’s pullout from Gaza.

Tensions have long been mounting, with Israel and the West both financially and politically boycotting Hamas as a blacklisted terror group, plunging the territories into a deep crisis.

Israel said Hamas members — even ministers — were in its sights and levelled threats against its Damasus-based political supremo Khaled Meshaal, who survived a Mossad assassination bid in 1997.

Past history of soldiers kidnapped at the hands of Palestinians bodes ill for Shalit, with all nine such previous cases ending in death.

Meanwhile, Hamas and the rival Fatah movement announced a deal drawn up by Palestinian prisoners that implicitly recognises Israel’s right to exist by calling for a Palestinian state on land conquered in 1967.

Abbas, locked in a power struggle with Hamas, had vowed to put the initiative to a referendum on July 26 should no agreement be reached, although Hamas had slammed the vote as an attempt to overthrow its government.