Hamas Has Yet To Agree To Cease-Fire Proposal

Steve Inskeep talks to Ehab El-Ghussain, deputy information minister for the Palestinian government.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Good morning. A cease-fire in the Middle East remains, at best, a moving target.

MONTAGNE: Here's what we know. Egypt proposed that Israel and Hamas stop their attacks on each other. Israel said yes. Hamas spokesmen said the discussing what to do and it continued firing rockets. So Israel now says its attacks are back on. Steve Inskeep caught up with one of those Hamas spokesmen earlier this morning. He's Ihab al-Ghusain, deputy information minister for the Palestinian government. He said Hamas was only then getting word of the Egyptian proposal - mostly, he said, through the media.

IHAB AL-GHUSAIN: What we are doing is defending ourselves. The Israelis started this. They started killing us. They started the striking on us. We didn't want this war from the beginning. We don't want any war. I guess the Palestinians - Palestinians have pain - enough pain since eight years.

INSKEEP: Let me just note that if we were talking with an Israeli they would have a differing opinion with you about who started what. But setting that aside for the moment, in this latest exchange, if I may note, sir, the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, as we're speaking have killed zero Israelis - done some damage, but killed no one. And in the Israeli response to that many, many Palestinians, including civilians, have been killed. Why continue this conflict given that?

AL-GHUSAIN: Well, actually, as I said, we're not talking about killing people. It's not our goal to kill people. It's not our goal to have pain on the other side. Our only thing is to defend ourselves. Nobody can accept in the world that he will get hit and not defend himself. What we are doing is defending ourselves. It's not easy for anyone to just get hit and look and keep silent. So the Palestinians, you know, they did this to defend themselves. And they won't to stop until they see someone who are defending them for them and talking about them and telling the Israelis always to stop and making pressure and taking the Israelis to the WorldCause. We're talking about all kinds of war crimes that Israelis did. They killed civilians. They killed women, children, kids, elders. They targeted journalists. They targeted hospitals. So all kind of war crime they did, not only in this time, but also in 2012 and then 2008, 2009. And all the world are keeping silent, making the killer a victim. That's the problem.

INSKEEP: You make an interesting point when you talk about the killer appearing to be the victim or victim appearing to be a killer - people on the outside struggle to figure out who's who. Do you make it more difficult by firing rockets into civilian areas? Do you make it more difficult for people to have any sympathy for your side?

AL-GHUSAIN: Well, actually, we're talking about the Israelis who have all the developed weapons and airstrikes and, you know. And at the same time, they're targeting the civilians - so it's - Palestinians. That's what the Palestinians have and they want to defend themselves with what they have. But at the same time, I know, as we hear from the Palestinians, the different sections, they don't mean to target any civilians. And that's known by their declaration.

INSKEEP: If a cease-fire does take hold, is this cycle likely to repeat itself again in a few months or a few years?

AL-GHUSAIN: Well, if there's no fair solution, we're talking the about 2 million people are seized - that they are put in a big jail by the Israelis. If this seize will be lifted and they live as normal people, I think maybe it will be a solution - not to come to this angry again.

INSKEEP: Ihab al-Ghusain, thank you very much.

AL-GHUSAIN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's deputy information minister for the Palestinian government in Gaza. He spoke with us earlier today as a cease-fire came and went. By the way, those civilians have been killed. Israel has strongly denied that it targets hospitals or other civilian targets in Gaza. And again, the overnight development here is that Egypt proposed a cease-fire. Israel's security cabinet approved it but when Hamas did not immediately agree, Israel said its military operations had resumed.

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