Gaza Cease-Fire Still Just Out Of Reach: What Does Each Side Want?

Secretary of State John Kerry is trying again to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, as casualty counts rise inexorably higher. NPR's Emily Harris is in Gaza, and she speaks to Audie Cornish about both sides' demands.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's been a day of intense, but so far, unsuccessful efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry. He was in Cairo, trying to forge a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The two sides have agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian pause in the fighting tomorrow. But Kerry's attempts at a week-long truce have fallen short.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Meanwhile, the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants continues. More than 800 Palestinians, including hundreds of women and children, have been killed. 35 Israeli soldiers have died, as well as three civilians in Israel.

CORNISH: We're going to hear now about some of the sticking points complicating cease-fire efforts. And we're joined by NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza. And Emily, begin by telling us what Secretary Kerry had to say.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Well, Secretary Kerry spoke briefly in Cairo after a long day of meetings. He said that he and the United Nations are asking for a seven-day cease-fire, but that the two parties who have to agree, Israel and Hamas, haven't come to terms yet. Kerry is now going to leave this region and head back to Europe for further talks with various parties tomorrow.

CORNISH: And Hamas has long called for any permanent solution to include the opening up of the tiny Gaza Strip. But what would that actually involve?

HARRIS: That would involve allowing trade and travel to happen. As you probably remember, when Hamas took Gaza over seven years ago, Israel imposed tight controls on trade and travel. One example, concrete is not allowed into Gaza unless it's cleared to be used for an international NGO project cleared by Israel. For Gazans to travel through Israel, even just to get to the West Bank, it requires special clearance. Requests are often rejected. And many Gazans who have family in the West Bank, or in Jerusalem don't see those family members for years. So lifting all these restrictions would make a significant difference to people's daily lives, and it would also be a significant political victory for Hamas in the eyes of many Palestinians, probably not just in Gaza.

CORNISH: And one plan that has been discussed would bring a cease-fire but require the demilitarization of Gaza. What would that mean?

HARRIS: Well, bottom line - it would mean no more weapons in the hands of Hamas. In particularly, no rockets that could hit Israel from Gaza. It would also mean destroying the network of tunnels that Hamas has dug to enter Israel for military purposes.

This is a central demand from Israel to destroy this network of tunnels, and disarming Hamas is something the U.S. also supports. But Hamas watchers here in Gaza say that the militant movement would be very unlikely to accept that. We've heard the political leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, talking about a 10-year truce. But in a speech this week he said, that if Hamas were to disarm, then Israel would also have to give up its weapons.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza. Emily, thank you.

HARRIS: Thanks, Audie.

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