Gaza Fighting Continues Despite U.N. Resolution
ARI SHAPIRO, host:
This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last night calling for a, quote, "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip. But there's more fighting today. The Israelis carried out a new round of airstrikes overnight, and Hamas launched more rockets into Israel. Aid groups said their workers were trying to help civilians in Gaza when they came under Israeli fire. Those aid groups are now suspending operations in the territory. Joining us with the latest is NPR's Eric Westervelt, who's in Jerusalem. Good morning, Eric.
ERIC WESTERVELT: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: It seems as if the UN resolution has done really nothing at the moment to change the situation on the ground. Is that the case?
WESTERVELT: That's exactly right. Fighting continues; Israeli officials have had no immediate reaction to this UN vote, but we see by the reactions of the military on the ground that they've kept up their attack. The Israeli Air Force say fighter jets overnight hit several targets and some again early today. The Palestinian death toll continues to rise, and Hamas leaders said through a spokesman today they didn't recognize the UN resolution and hadn't been consulted about it. And they kept fighting as well, Renee. Hamas militants fired several Katyusha rockets at Be'er Sheva this morning, as well as several smaller Qassam rockets at Ashkelon, Ashdod and other cities. So, you know, the fighting continues, and the UN resolution appears to have no impact whatsoever.
MONTAGNE: Well, talking about those aid groups, the UN says it suspended all aid operations in Gaza, after one of its drivers was killed by Israeli tank fire. The Red Cross has protested Israeli actions. What's the latest on those aid groups?
WESTERVELT: Well, exactly. The UN - it's not just the UN and the Red Cross; several nongovernmental aid agencies say the Israeli military has blocked efforts to deliver aid and ongoing efforts on the ground to try to treat the wounded and retrieve the dead. The Red Cross, in a very strongly worded statement, accused Israel of failing to meet its obligation under international law to allow for the evacuation of the wounded. The Red Cross, in particular, Renee, is reporting some horrific scenes involving civilians caught in the combat areas. The agency says they found four children starving next to their mother's corpse and talked about wounded civilians who had to go several days without treatment. The UN, for the second time this week, is calling for an investigation after one of their drivers was killed by tank fire. This is the second time this week; they called for, earlier, an investigation into a shelling of a UN school in which more than 40 civilians were killed.
MONTAGNE: And amidst those stories of civilian deaths in Gaza, we're also hearing of three Israeli soldiers killed by Hamas fire yesterday. Now, the Israeli army appears to be at something of a crossroads as to whether it should push deeper into urban Gaza or, alternatively, pull back.
WESTERVELT: That's right. Israeli forces are fighting on the edges, Renee, especially in the east and in the north of Gaza City, but they have not yet pushed deeper into the city. And commentators here are saying the military really now has to decide quickly whether to push in deeper or to pull back. Some of the troops, we're told, are on relatively static positions, which can create easy targets for militants. Three Israeli soldiers, as we said, were killed yesterday, and aside from a friendly-fire incident earlier in the week, it was the Israeli military's deadliest day since the fighting began. One soldier was killed by Hamas sniper fire, we were told; another by an anti-tank rocket. And Hamas fighters, it appears, want to try to draw the Israeli forces deeper into these dense, urban areas, where they believe the Israeli heavy armor and superior firepower is simply less of an advantage.
MONTAGNE: Eric, we just have a few seconds here, but where should we be looking on the diplomatic front?
WESTERVELT: Well, Egypt's been trying to play a key role in efforts to stop the fighting, but it appears talks in Cairo have made no real progress, and as we said, the UN resolution as well has not made progress. So, it's really unclear right now where to look for - next for diplomatic progress.
MONTAGNE: Thanks very much. NPR's Eric Westervelt speaking to us from Jerusalem.