Israel, Hamas Ignore U.N. Cease-Fire Call
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Israel today rejected the call for a ceasefire adopted by the UN Security Council last night. The Israeli government issued a statement saying the ceasefire was unworkable. Israel emphasized that its military operations in Gaza will continue, even as more information emerges about mounting casualties among Palestinian civilians. NPR's Mike Shuster reports.
MIKE SHUSTER: Israel's response to the Security Council was short and blunt: The ceasefire resolution is not practical, a statement said; Israel will continue its military operations in Gaza. And then Israel promptly intensified its ground and air offensive. To be acceptable to Israel, the UN ceasefire resolution would have had to lay all the blame for the current crisis on Hamas, explained Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
Former Ambassador DANIEL AYALON (Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.): Hamas would be responsible not just for the violence, but also for the bloodshed and all the victims. And secondly, there should be a very specific enforcement regime, than inspecting regime, on Gaza. So, Hamas will not be able anymore to smuggle explosives and the terrorists in.
SHUSTER: The UN ceasefire resolution was adopted by a vote of 14 to zero, with the United States abstaining but speaking in its favor. The U.S. action surprised and disappointed many Israeli officials, but so far, it hasn't convinced Israel to curtail its offensive. For its part, Hamas showed little interest in the UN action as well. Mousa Abu Marzook, one of Hamas' top figures in Damascus, told Al Jazeera English satellite television that Hamas would cease its rocket attacks only after Israel stopped its offensive.
Mr. MOUSA ABU MARZOOK (Deputy Chief, Hamas Political Bureau): If the Israelis stopped the fire and their aggression against the Palestinian in Gaza Strip, Hamas should answer directly about the United Nation resolution.
SHUSTER: Hamas is sending a delegation to Cairo tomorrow to participate in talks with Egypt, which has been pursuing a ceasefire plan of its own. But the group, which is the effective government of Gaza, seems to be in no hurry to sign on to a ceasefire, despite the thousands of Palestinian dead and wounded because, Marzook suggested, it is winning just by continuing the rocket attacks.
Mr. MARZOOK: They said in the beginning, we're going to Gaza Strip and hit each launcher and stop the rockets coming from Gaza Strip to Israeli cities. And until now, we have 14 days they didn't disturb any launcher from Gaza Strip to Israel.
SHUSTER: More than 800 Palestinians have lost their lives in the fighting, with 3300 wounded. At least 14 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have died. Over the past 24 hours, information has emerged about a deadly incident in the town of Zeitoun, south of Gaza City. Several days ago, the Israeli defense force ordered more than 100 people into a single building there, according to Allegra Pacheco of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Ms. ALLEGRA PACHECO (Deputy Head, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs): And the next day, the house was shelled. People were killed, about 30 people according to these eye-witness testimonies, including several children. There were also many people injured, again, a lot of children, and it took about two and a half days until ambulances were allowed into the area to evacuate the wounded.
SHUSTER: Several other buildings were demolished in Zeitoun with up to 40 people killed. Scores were trapped in the rubble. Rescuers finally got to them yesterday, according to Eyad Nasser of the Gaza Red Cross.
Mr. EYAD NASSER (Spokesman, International Committee of the Red Cross, Gaza): We managed to rescue 105 civilians - women, children, men - who were trapped in a house for more than a week with hardly sufficient amounts of water and food.
SHUSTER: The Red Cross was not permitted to drive its vehicles into Zeitoun, which have been shot at by Israeli soldiers. Allegra Pacheco says no civilian or relief worker is safe in Gaza.
Ms. PACHECO: We are experiencing now a very severe protection crisis. There is no safe space left in Gaza. There are no bomb shelters, no safe havens. And as long as the violence continues, we can expect more and more civilians to be killed and injured.
SHUSTER: Israel continued its bombardment of Gaza all day today, with dozens of airstrikes as well as operations on the ground. There was supposed to be another three-hour humanitarian halt to allow the delivery of supplies, but that was ignored by both sides. Late today, a pall of dark smoke enveloped much of Northern Gaza punctuated by the thunder and flash of numerous explosions. Mike Shuster, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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