RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Intense fighting continues between Israel and Hamas, bringing the conflict into a fifth day. The death toll is now at least 50. Today, Israeli forces struck two communications buildings in Gaza, injuring several journalists, while militants in Gaza continue to retaliate with rocket fire into Israel. Diplomatic efforts to forge a truce are also gaining momentum as heads of state rush to the Middle East for negotiations in hopes of averting a possible ground war. In a moment, we'll hear from the Israeli side of the conflict, but first NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Gaza City. Thanks for being with us, Anthony.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: My pleasure, Rachel.
MARTIN: OK. Bring us up to speed. What more do we know about how the fighting has changed or intensified over the last 24 hours?
KUHN: Well, last night, we heard Israeli gunboats firing on coastal positions in Gaza. In Israel, Israeli missile defenses shot down more incoming rockets over Tel Aviv. Those are rockets that the Palestinians did not have before. Also, Israeli rockets hit two media buildings in Gaza, which house foreign and domestic media. Al Aqsa TV, which belongs to Hamas is there, the U.K.'s Sky News is there and the Lebanon-based Al Quds TV is there. Several journalists were injured. The Palestinian journalists who work there see themselves as patriots who are contributing to the defense of their country through their reporting. And while I was there interviewing the journalists, militants fired off a rocket just right next to the media building. So, apparently the militants think they can use the journalists as a form of cover, a human shield, to fire off rockets.
MARTIN: We mentioned efforts by the international community, in particular Arab countries to try to broker a truce. Where do those efforts stand?
KUHN: Well, they seem to be fairly close to a deal and the strongest indication we've had of that so far is that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi says that a cease-fire mediated by Egypt, Turkey and Qatar is in the works, but not all sides have agreed. There is no final deal yet. Now yesterday, Hamas's leaders met with Egyptian intelligence. Apparently, they outlined conditions under which they would stop fighting, such as Israel ceasing to assassinate their top leaders. Today, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is in Israel. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon is expected to go there soon as well. And the Arab League is considering sending a delegation to Gaza. So, diplomatic pressure is on both sides in the conflict to lay down their arms.
MARTIN: And I understand Israel is also working a diplomatic angle to put an end to this. How is that going? Is that working?
KUHN: They have been fairly successful in getting the European countries, the U.N. and the U.S. to all say that Hamas started this thing with its rocket attacks, the burden of deescalating the fight is on Hamas and that Israel has the right to defend itself. Now, they're helped by the fact that so far civilian casualties on the Palestinian side have been lower than in the last invasion of Gaza by Israel more than three years ago. But I think the Israelis know that those casualties figures will go up if they launch a ground offensive.
MARTIN: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Gaza City. Thanks so much, Anthony.
KUHN: Thank you, Rachel.
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