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Israel And Gaza Struck By Rockets, Bombs And A Sense Of Deja Vu

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Israel And Gaza Struck By Rockets, Bombs And A Sense Of Deja Vu

Israel And Gaza Struck By Rockets, Bombs And A Sense Of Deja Vu

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This is the third time in five years that Israel has bombed Gaza in response to Hamas rocket fire, and many Israelis are skeptical things can change this time around. Daniel Estrin begins his report near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Thirteen-year-old Israeli Moshe Aflalo cups his hands over his mouth and does a spot-on imitation of the sirens that warn of incoming rockets from Gaza. It's a sound that haunts him. On Thursday, a rocket landed in his neighbor's backyard right across the street.

MOSHE AFLALO: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: He says when the rocket struck, he was hysterical. But this isn't new.

MAZAL AFLALO: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: His mom, Mazal, says he's been like this since the last time Israel and militants in Gaza had an intense round of fighting a year and a half ago. Since then, he wakes up scared in the middle of the night and runs to sleep in her bed. He can't concentrate on his studies unless he's in his school's bomb shelter. And now, as fighting has resumed, Mazal Aflalo says she doesn't think the Israeli army can stop Hamas militants from ruining their lives.

AFLALO: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: She says even when there's quiet, it won't last. They'll start these attacks again. There is a sense of deja vu. There was a major battle in the winter of 2008-2009 and again in 2012. Overall, more than 1,300 Palestinians and 19 Israelis were killed. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says it may seem repetitive, but Israel is doing the only thing it can do.

MARK REGEV: If one looks for perfect solutions, especially here in the Middle East, you'll probably never find them. But previous rounds of fighting of this sort did bring about extended periods of peace and quiet.

ESTRIN: And this time, Regev says, Israel can score a bigger blow. The new leadership in Egypt has demolished the tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border that Hamas had used to smuggle in rockets.

REGEV: Unlike in past, when this crisis is over, because of the new geopolitical situation in the region, it could be much more difficult for Hamas to replenish its arsenal of deadly rockets.

ESTRIN: But Mkhaimar Abusada, a political analyst in Gaza, says Hamas actually manufactures many of its rockets and that it can rebuild its arsenal. He says there are other factors - the group is low on cash and facing international isolation - that may be motivating militants to fight.

MKHAIMAR ABUSADA: It was being pushed into the corner to the point where they basically calculated they have got nothing to lose and any war with Israel or any escalation with Israel will probably result in an end to the impasse, an end to their difficult and complicated circumstances.

ESTRIN: Israeli Middle East expert Avraham Sela of Hebrew University in Jerusalem says this cycle can't end without a long-term peace deal. He says that despite their rockets salvos, elements in Hamas are becoming more pragmatic, and Israel needs to talk to them.

AVRAHAM SELA: Israel will have to, at some point or another, look into this equation and say, how can I contribute to those people in Hamas who want to turn from terrorism to a more kind of political approach? Yes, we can cause them a lot of damage. But this will resolve nothing.

ESTRIN: It was just a few months ago that Israel and the Palestinians were talking peace. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev acknowledges that peace can only come through negotiation but says Hamas can't be a part of that. But those peace talks seem like years ago now. Driving south to meet the Aflalo family, I saw flatbed trucks on the highway carrying tanks south toward the Gaza border. On my way back north, the flatbed trucks were driving back empty. For NPR News, I'm Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem.

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