Netanyahu hints that battle winding down

The Israeli military says an Israeli soldier it previously believed had been captured by Hamas fighters in a Gaza ambush had in fact been killed in battle that day.

The soldier's purported capture on Friday had helped shatter an internationally brokered ceasefire, drawn global condemnation and triggered a military assault on the area of his disappearance in southern Gaza that left dozens of Palestinians dead and scores of homes destroyed.

The military did not explain how it reached the conclusion that Hadar Goldin, 23, an infantry lieutenant, was killed in battle.

The announcement of his death came amid signs that Israel is scaling back its ground operation in Gaza. A number of tanks and other vehicles were seen leaving Gaza last night.

At least 1721 Palestinians have been killed, said health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Israel has lost 67 people, most of them soldiers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that troops would reassess the operation after completing the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down. Netanyahu warned that Hamas would pay an "intolerable price" if it continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table.

Hamas said it would not halt its fire if Israel withdraws unilaterally. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: "We will continue to resist until we achieve our goals".

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