JERUSALEM — Palestinian militants sprang from the ground and confronted Israeli soldiers Friday morning, as they have repeatedly in recent days. This time, Israeli officials said, one exploded a suicide belt while another unleashed machine-gun fire. This time, two Israeli soldiers were killed and the militants apparently escaped with a third.
The attack, at the start of what was supposed to be a 72-hour pause in the fighting, escalated the deadly 25-day battle between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates the Gaza Strip.
Israel said the attack, from under a house near the southern border town of Rafah, took place at 9:20 a.m., soon after the 8 a.m. onset of the temporary truce secured by the Obama administration and the United Nations, whose leaders squarely blamed the breakdown on Hamas.
Hamas’s account was confused. One leader was quoted claiming responsibility for the soldier’s capture, then backtracked. Others contended that the clash unfolded at 7 a.m., before the cease-fire, although Palestinian reports of fighting near Rafah came three hours later. And one said that in any case, the Hamas gunmen acted only to counter “Zionist incursions.
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