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Israel soldier 'kidnapped' by Hamas is dead: army

The Israeli army on Tuesday confirmed that a soldier who Hamas militants claimed they had kidnapped is dead and his body remains unaccounted for.

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army on Tuesday confirmed that a soldier who Hamas militants claimed they had kidnapped is dead and his body remains unaccounted for. The army named the soldier, whose body is still missing, as Oron Shaul, two days after Hamas said they had kidnapped an Israeli soldier of the same name. 

A spokeswoman said Israeli pathologists had identified 12 out of 13 soldiers killed in Gaza over the weekend but that 21-year-old Shaul's body was still unaccounted for. Publication of the name suggested Hamas was likely to be holding the soldier's remains, although it was not clear if the entire body or only part of it was missing.

Israeli dog tags carry a soldier's name and his army number, and are designed to be broken in two, with half worn around the neck and the other half inserted into his boot to allow for identification in the event of death. Shaul was part of a group of seven troops from the elite Golani unit who died in an attack on an armoured vehicle in Gaza.

A spokeswoman flatly denied any possibility that the soldier was alive. "The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed. The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined," an army statement said.

The army refused to confirm or deny Hamas' claim on Sunday night, saying it was investigating, although Israel's ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said the rumours of an abduction were "untrue". Hamas militants have long sought to abduct soldiers to use as bargaining chips to obtain the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

In 2006, it captured conscript Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. In the same year, Lebanon's Hezbollah also seized and killed two soldiers, triggering a devastating war with Israel, and later handing over their remains in a massive prisoner exchange.

The death of 13 soldiers on Sunday was the highest single-day death toll sustained by the Israeli army since the 2006 Lebanon war.

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