Latest Gaza Cease-Fire Is Set To Expire Monday

Israeli and Palestinian teams are locked in talks in Cairo, but there are no signs a peace deal will be reached. Both sides say they're prepared to start fighting if they don't get what they want.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good Morning. I'm David Greene.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And I'm Kelly McEvers, in for Steve Inskeep. For two weeks now, it's been relatively quiet in Israel and Gaza, where a civil war last month killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, most of them soldiers. That all could end today with a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas set to expire. Israeli and Palestinian delegations are holding talks in Cairo, but there are no clear signs that a deal will be reached. And both sides are saying they're ready to start fighting again if they don't get what they want.

NPR's Alice Fordham joins us from Gaza. And Alice, what's the latest from the Israelis and the Palestinians about these talks?

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: So we're coming to the end of two weeks, where the rockets and the airstrikes have been quiet most of the time. But the noises coming from the Israeli and the Palestinian sides haven't been very positive. Netanyahu told the cabinet yesterday that they'd only be able to make a deal if there's a clear response to Israel's security needs. Now Israel has demanded the demilitarization of Gaza. And Mousa Abu Marzouk, from the Palestinian delegation, has said, this period of calm may soon be over; that they won't cede any of their claims.

So Egyptian negotiators are coming up with new suggestions, but there's a belligerent tone from both sides.

MCEVERS: And what about Hamas? What is their goal here?

FORDHAM: Well, as I say, their statements have been very aggressive but, in reality, they're in a very difficult situation. So they're the dominant force here in the Gaza Strip and they refused a series of cease-fire agreements in this latest round of fighting, promising they were going to get the Israelis to lift restrictions, saying the Gazans needed an airport, a seaport. And in the course of that fighting, huge sacrifices were made; nearly 2,000 people died, as you say. So it would be really hard for Hamas to come back to the Gazans from these talks with nothing. But at the same time, they're lacking the regional support they once had, particularly in Egypt, where the Muslim brotherhood regime was very sympathetic to them. But since it fell a year ago Hamas has just not had a lot of friends in Cairo so it's a struggle to get those concessions.

MCEVERS: And what about the people there in Gaza, Alice? Are they afraid that fighting will start up again?

FORDHAM: I think they certainly say it's a possibility, Kelly. You know, you get a range of views from chatting to people. Obviously people, you know, after this bombardment, they need and they want peace and there's a real dread of this violence starting again. But at the same time, people in Gaza really, really want things to change. They want something to come out of these peace talks. Over the last year Israeli restrictions on people and goods coming in and out of Gaza have tightened and restrictions on where you can take your fishing boat, where you can go to hospital if you get sick. And this has also had a big economic impact, for various reasons. You know, even people who were government workers haven't been getting paid.

So you meet lots of people who say, we can't live like this anymore.

They don't like the war, but they see it as the only way they can get some leverage over the Israelis to make a difference to their lives. So some people say, if Israel refuses to make a deal that grants them some concessions, they will happily support Hamas if they stop firing rockets again.

MCEVERS: What is daily life like for people in Gaza now that there has been a lull in this heavy fighting?

FORDHAM: Well, as you know, I'm sure you've seen the pictures--there's been a huge amount of destruction. About 100,000 people have lost their homes. I'm seeing so many people sheltering in squalid conditions; in schools, in tents, in their relatives homes. And there are people who are short of food.

Most of the fighting took place in about 40 percent of the territory of the Gaza Strip, round the edges close to Israel, which is where all the farmland is. And it was harvest time and half the chickens in Gaza died during the fighting.

You know, so it may seem mundane considering the heavy death toll, but it's this kind of thing that has a huge impact for people try to pick up the pieces. And people say they're making plans for reconstruction even though it's difficult to get materials in here, but they can't properly begin to rebuild until there's a lasting cease-fire.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Alice Fordham in Gaza. Alice, thank you so much.

FORDHAM: You're welcome.

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