On The Eve Of Ramadan's End, Fighting Resumes In Gaza

Israel and Hamas carried out a rhetorical battle Sunday over the fate of dueling offers to extend a ceasefire. In the end, the fighting resumed after Saturday's 12-hour truce. Israel vowed to continue its military campaign, targeting tunnels along the border. Wary Gazans prepared as best they could for the feast that marks the end of Ramadan.

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ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Eric Westervelt sitting in for Arun Rath. Israel and Hamas battled with words and weapons today. Even as international efforts to end the war continued a firm cease-fire remained elusive. Wary Gazans prepared as best they could for the feast that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. NPR's Emily Harris has the latest from Gaza City

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: If talk of a cease-fire in Gaza were an Olympic sport it would be ping-pong. Late Saturday one cease-fire ended Israel extended it. Hamas rejected that and shot rockets into Israel. Then Israel offered a longer cease-fire with caveats. Hamas fired more rockets into Israel. By midmorning Sunday Israel resumed attacks in Gaza from air, sea and land, by midafternoon it was Hamas that suggested a pause in fighting. At that point Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on international TV. There was no talk of cease-fire, he said Israel would do what it needed to do to destroy the tunnels militants used to fight Israel from Gaza. Netanyahu also accused Hamas of being responsible for the more than 1,000 Palestinian deaths so far in this war.

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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Hamas is not only trying to kill our people it's sacrificing it's own people, quite willfully, deliberately, cynically and horribly. They're using their people as human shields. They want the bodies of Palestinian civilians to pile up.

HARRIS: There is no such thing as human shields in Gaza responded Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri. He said there is no divide between civilian and military society.

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SAMI ABU ZUHRI: (Through translator) Everyone here has a wife and kids. We are a civilian society facing aggression and killing and we are defending our society. It's not logical for us to leave our families and to go to other homes just so Israel won't say we are using human shields.

HARRIS: A rocket fired today from Gaza into Israel was launched from an urban area in central Gaza City. At city market the sound of nearby explosions punctuated conversation.

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ALI RAJEH: Those kids are living under that.

(Explosion)

HARRIS: Ali Rajeh had brought some of his children out to buy new clothes for Eid, the Muslim celebration ending the holy month of Ramadan. Two boys got belts, another bright white new tennis shoes. Their father says he's not really in the mood to celebrate this year. Too many family members and friends have been hurt in the war. But he wants to make the children happy.

RAJEH: (Through translator) They're under too much pressure from the war. Sure they've gotten used to hearing the bombardments and hearing the news about dead people, but I want to change the atmosphere a little bit, have a little happiness with new clothes for Eid.

HARRIS: President Obama today told Netanyahu he is looking for a change of atmosphere in Gaza too. The White House says the President wants an immediate cease-fire and negotiations for a sustainable solution. That includes, Obama told Netanyahu on the phone, a normal life for Gazans and demilitarizing the Gaza Strip. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.

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