Despite outright denials from Israel, Al-Qassam Brigades, armed wing of Islamic Hamas movement, officially announced late on Sunday night that its militants abducted an Israeli soldier in a gun battle in eastern Gaza city with Israeli ground forces.
The group's spokesman, better known as Abu Obeida, who always shows up with his face masked, said in a televised statement "what the enemy (Israel) hasn't announced yet, is that one of its soldiers called Shaoul Aron, holding army serial number 6092065 was kidnapped by our Mujahidin."
He went on saying that the soldier "is already in our hands," adding that the militants succeeded in abducting him during the gun battle in eastern Gaza city on Saturday night, where 14 Israeli soldiers were killed and more than 50 were injured, including the general commander of Golani Brigades."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a press statement that the abduction of the Israeli soldier "is a big happiness to our people and a great victory to the Palestinian armed resistance," adding that the alleged capturing was a piece of "good news" for the prisoners and the families whose beloved were killed.
However, an Israeli envoy dismissed on Sunday that the Hamas armed wing's claim over the soldier kidnapping.
Ron Prosor, Israel's Permanent Representative to the UN, made the clarification at the UN headquarters as the Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on the ever deepening crisis between Israel and Palestine.
"There's no kidnapped Israeli soldier and those rumors are untrue," he told reporters.
As soon as Abu Obeida announced the news, dozens of Gazans took to the streets to express their happiness while gunmen fired into the air. Similar celebrations were also seen in towns and cities in the West Bank.
Responding to Israel's denial, Abu Obeida said that "the enemy is hesitating to declare its loss, but the big shock was when its soldiers fell into this trap and many were killed and wounded. The enemy is afraid to admit that one of the soldiers was missed and kidnapped."
"If the leadership of the enemy wants to lie and hide the truth on the number of the soldiers killed, it has to answer its public on the fate of this soldier right now," said the spokesman of Hamas armed wing, who refrained from giving any more details on the health conditions of the soldier.
The abduction of the Israeli soldier in eastern Gaza came after Israel carried out a large-scale military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip since July 8. In the offensive code-named " Operation Protective Edge," more than 500 Palestinians were killed, while over 3,000 others wounded.
Gaza militants led by Hamas also fired hundreds of rockets into northern, central and southern Israel, while Israel struck back with missiles and artillery bombing against the coastal enclave. Hamas said a larger ground operation would help the militants kidnap Israeli soldiers.
In 2006, Hamas abducted the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In 2011, Egypt brokered a prisoners' swap deal between Hamas and Israel, when Shalit was released in exchange for freeing 1,028 Palestinian prisoners. Many of them were rearrested during Israel' s West Bank operation in June.