Palestinian resistance faction Hamas has accused Israel of using reports about the abduction of a soldier to end a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and cover up what it described as Israeli massacres in the Palestinian territory.
"This is an Israeli attempt to cover up Israel's atrocious massacres in the southern Rafah city," Hamas spokesman Zami Abu Zuhri said in a press release on Friday.
At least 40 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 others injured in Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip on Friday.
Earlier in the day, an Israeli official said that a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire with Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip had collapsed.
But senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk accused Israel of creating pretexts to undermine the Gaza ceasefire.
"Israel ended the truce unilaterally," Abu Marzouq told Anadolu Agency. "We are committed to the truce and only respond to aggression."
He said that Palestinian fighters abducted an Israeli officer and killed two soldiers before the start of the humanitarian truce on Friday.
"There is no justification for Israel to violate the truce as the officer was captured and the two soldiers were killed ahead of the truce," he said.
Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip for almost four weeks, which killed at least 1458 Palestinians and injured more than 8300 others.
Israel claims that the offensive aims to undermine the ability of Palestinian factions to fire rockets at Israeli cities.
According to Israeli figures, at least 63 soldiers have been killed in battles with Palestinian fighters and three civilians by rocket fire.
Israel's military operation, codenamed "Operation Protective Edge," is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populate Gaza Strip – which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – within the last six years.
Report by Ola Attalah, for Anadolu Agency