Both Sides Assess What's Been Lost In Gaza — And Consider A Way Forward
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. A cease-fire that began this morning between Israel and Hamas seems to be intact. In the last month of fighting, Israel launched thousands of aerial and ground attacks on Gaza targets, and militants fired thousands of rockets into Israel. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers were killed along with three civilians in Israel. More than 1,800 people have died in Gaza. In a few minutes we'll hear from a U.N. worker about the conditions in Gaza. But first we're joined by reporter Daniel Estrin who's in Jerusalem to talk about how the two sides are taking stock. Daniel, welcome.
DANIEL ESTRIN: Thank you.
BLOCK: And Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza just as this cease-fire began. What are Israeli leaders saying that they accomplished?
ESTRIN: Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a congratulatory statement today. He thanked Israeli troops for thwarting the tunnel threat. Israel says it destroyed all 32 tunnels it found along Gaza's border with Israel. It says those tunnels were intended for militants to use to slip into Israel and carry out attacks. And for Israelis those tunnels were really the scariest threat that Hamas posed. So Israel's presenting that as a victory. And also the Israeli military says Hamas had 9,000 rockets to begin with. Militants launched a third and Israel destroyed a third. So Hamas has only 3,000 rockets and missiles left. And Israeli leaders say they feel there's also regional support for keeping Hamas in check, especially from Egypt.
BLOCK: Now, I gather Hamas is also claiming victories from this. What are the Hamas leaders saying?
ESTRIN: Well, I spoke to a source close to Hamas. I asked him what was Hamas's biggest gain, and he said negotiations - the talks that are set to take place now in Cairo. Hamas's main demand in these talks is opening up Gaza. Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza for about seven years now with Egypt often playing a role in that, too. I was on a conference call today with one Israeli official who said that Israel is prepared to talk about opening up Gaza's borders. He said, the more the international community works to help demilitarize Gaza, the more Israel will be willing to let Gaza's borders be open. And also the Hamas affiliated person I spoke to said, Hamas had shown it could stand up and fight the Israelis. Hamas did take on Israeli soldiers like it hadn't in the past. And one Palestinian analyst I spoke to summed it up. He said, that Hamas believes it proved that violence and fighting got them results. Hamas has gone from being isolated in the region to actually getting to sit at the negotiation table.
BLOCK: Now, Hamas will be at that negotiation table as part of a delegation led by a close associate of the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Has Abbas ended up strengthened by this?
ESTRIN: Israeli and Palestinian analysts I spoke to today said yes, he probably will be strengthened. His security forces might get deployed to patrol the borders in Gaza where they haven't been in years. Israel might have to finally accept the deal that Abbas made before all this fighting started which was the Palestinian Unity Government backed by Hamas.
BLOCK: Daniel, we've seen cease-fires come and go. Do people there really feel that this is a final cease-fire - that this is over?
ESTRIN: Well, it's too early to say whether this really is over, but Israeli troops are out of Gaza now so that does give people here a sense that a page really has been turned. It's important to remember even though the leaders are moving on now to the political battle of gains and losses, there are people here still coping with the tremendous personal tragedy of this last month of fighting. In Israel, people are grieving the loss of 67 people dead. In Gaza, people are grieving the loss of around 1,800 people killed, about 9,800 injured and large parts of neighborhoods destroyed.
BLOCK: OK - reporter Daniel Estrin talking with us from Jerusalem. Daniel, thank you.
ESTRIN: You're welcome.