In Gaza, A Day That Begins In Fear Ends In Cease-Fire Agreement

The day began with Israel's military calling up 16,000 more reservists, stoking fears of a widening offensive in Gaza; it ended with a 72-hour cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire is to begin Friday.

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We begin this hour with the news that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour unconditional humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza strip starting tomorrow. That announcement came late today from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The goal is to hit pause on the fighting long enough to allow civilians in Gaza to take care of injured people, bury the dead and restock on food and other supplies. We're joined on the line by NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Jerusalem. And, Soraya, begin by telling us what happened.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, there were intensive negotiations that were going on behind the scenes, not much that we saw, but apparently the U.N. Secretary General and the Secretary of State John Kerry, you know, came together and were able to make this announcement. There are reports that Hamas has accepted this. It's called an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, however, troops will remain on the ground. And this, in the past, has lead to violations of such humanitarian cease-fires. It will begin in several hours here - 8 a.m. local time. And it's supposed to last for 72 hours.

CORNISH: Now, cease-fire deals seem to come and go. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier today that he wouldn't agree to anything that prevented Israel's offensive against tunnels that Israel says Hamas is using along the border. So what makes this deal different?

NELSON: Well, I think it's the weight of who was making the announcement and how they were making it. I mean, it seems like it is a more serious - and I think the world leaders and there's world pressure there to be an end to the violence. Today was another very violent day, not quite as bad as yesterday. But nevertheless, there were shelling and certainly in Gaza - there were many wounded and dead there. And there were a lot of injuries on the Israeli side today as well when some of the rockets fell in various communities. And so the feeling is, especially because it's not just the violence at this stage, we're also talking about a humanitarian crisis. I was speaking with aid workers today who were telling me that drinkable water is in short supply, food is hard to come by. It's getting to the point were there has to be some kind of break so that this humanitarian situation can be resolved.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. Soraya, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome.

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