Cease-Fire Between Israel, Hamas May Be Close

With the conflict in Gaza on its seventh day on Tuesday, Egypt dispatched its foreign minister to Gaza City at the head of an Arab delegation. Egyptian officials say a ceasefire deal could be reached soon, but meanwhile the Israeli air strikes and Hamas rocket attacks continued. Anthony Kuhn talks to Audie Cornish.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. For much of today, talk out of the Middle East was of negotiators in Egypt nearing a deal to end fighting between Israel and Hamas. But late this afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and made clear there is no truce.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Now if there's a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary, to defend its people.

CORNISH: We're going to focus now on those diplomatic means. U.S., U.N., Arab League and European diplomats have all converged on the region, in an effort to end fighting that has killed at least 130 Palestinians and five Israelis. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Gaza City. And Anthony, what is the current state of negotiations?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Well, there was a lot of confusion today, Audie, about what was supposed to happen. Because Egypt is brokering the talks, everyone thought that they would make the formal announcement. But at different times during the day, people said there would be an announcement; there would be a press conference. Those times all came and went. And we're now into the next day, with no truce. We also don't know whether - if there is a truce, the details will be announced to us, so that we can see who got what. The last time there was such a cease-fire, none of the details were made public.

CORNISH: Now what, exactly, do both sides want in this?

KUHN: Well, quite clearly, Israel has said that it wants the rockets being launched at it, from Gaza, to stop. And it also does not want Hamas to rearm because they don't want to have to go back and do the same sort of campaign again, in a few years. Now, on Hamas' side, they are asking for Israel to stop assassinating its leaders - you remember that this military campaign began with the assassination of its top military commander. And they want the blockade of their shores, and their borders, to end.

CORNISH: We've heard, elsewhere in the program, that attacks in the region have not only continued but intensified. What more can you tell us about that?

KUHN: Yes. Well, it seems that the Israelis are working from a very full list of targets. We've heard just in the - in recent hours, naval bombardments, helicopters, jet fighters. There are drones buzzing above me, in the skies, as we speak. The Palestinians have not stopped launching rockets, and there have been casualties on both sides, from the ongoing attacks. It seems that if they were expecting a truce, they were going to keep fighting up to the very last minutes; and if not, they would just keep going.

CORNISH: Anthony, I understand the Israeli military told Gazans to evacuate much of the strip, but did they actually do it?

KUHN: Well, it's interesting that leaflets were dropped on the city. And if Gaza residents followed those orders, a lot of the city would have been evacuated. They would have left the northern part of the city, and moved into the center. But apparently, there was not a large-scale evacuation. Hamas dismissed this as a psychological warfare trick. Residents here have a lot of experience in previous invasions, and they know which way the Israeli army would probably come in. A lot of people may have moved already. A lot of people decided to just stay put, where they were.

CORNISH: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Gaza City. Thank you, Anthony.

KUHN: Thank you, Audie.

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