Latest Cease-Fire In Gaza Seems To Be Holding
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A three-day truce raises the prospect of an end to fighting in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas. We're going to try to talk through this situation with the Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal who is in Gaza City. Welcome to the program.
NICK CASEY: Hi. Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK, so the two sides have agreed to stop shooting for three days. Does this mean war is actually over?
CASEY: Well, I think everybody here hopes this means that it's over, but it's not clear. We're not out of the woods yet. There are some good signs. This cease-fire came first from the Egyptians and the Palestinians. Israel has already said it's interested in a cease-fire. And strangely enough, this morning, there was a huge barrage of rockets that came out of the Gaza Strip, even over the hotel and woke all of us up. The reason why this is important is because before cease-fire happens, usually both sides have at it one last time and then finish, and that appears to have followed that pattern. So - so far people are out - getting out, getting more supplies. They're very, very cautious right now. They know that cease-fires in the past like this have fallen apart, but I think there's this sense of hope that this time it might be the real deal.
INSKEEP: I suppose the real question is whether Hamas thinks its objectives or some of them have been met and whether Israel thinks some of it its objective have been met.
CASEY: Israel has said, at this point, it has destroyed all the tunnels that it knows of. So we can tell, at least from the Israeli perspective, they're thinking that this is over. A lot of the goals that they set out to accomplish have been accomplished. Palestinians - it's not exactly clear how this is going to be sold to the Palestinian public as what the victory in this was for Hamas. There are obviously a lot of civilian casualties. There are - 1,800 people have been killed so far. The majority of them are civilians, according to the U.N. Large numbers of children have been killed. And so far, Hamas doesn't have quite anything it can say that it got out of this. One of the main goals going into this was to get an end to the economic blockade that had been stopping goods from getting in through Rafah terminal in Egypt and through Karem Shalom in Israel. So far, the situation there is the same. The one thing that, you know, Hamas can tell its people if there's a cease-fire is that they won't get any more Israel fire into the civilian areas that had been happening. The other thing to keep in mind is that Israel has pulled out of Gaza, and while they're still very close by - could turn around, go the other way and go back into Gaza - it's seemingly more and more likely now, given that they said they've finished their mission of closing the tunnels.
INSKEEP: So you're saying that Hamas seems to have lost a good deal and cannot appoint to very many concrete gains. You're saying that Israel can point to some specific gains on the ground. What losses have there been for Israel in this conflict?
CASEY: So far in the war, there's been 64 Israeli soldiers who have been killed. So there have been some casualties on the Israeli side - nothing nearly as large as what has happened in Gaza. But in a country like Israel where the death of every soldier is extremely important, each of these deaths of a soldier is going to be felt.
INSKEEP: Let me just ask you, Nick Casey - we've had a situation where each side is, on some level, responding to the other or saying it's responded to the other's provocations and actions. So it's a tactical situation. If we pull back to a strategic level, has the situation changed or moved at all because in any measurable way because of this conflict?
CASEY: One thing that you can say, Steve, is that Gaza has been very, very damaged by this. There are whole neighborhoods in Gaza that are completely gone. The larger question, though, is whether this kind of war will happen a next time in a couple of years because no permanent agreements have been made over the issue which keeps brining Gaza Strip to war, which is the presence of rockets in Gaza Strip and the refusal of Israel to allow a bunch of things through its terminal into Gaza - choking it off.
INSKEEP: Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal, thanks very much.
CASEY: Thanks Steve.
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