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A Brief Lull Shatters In Gaza, As Cease-Fire Falls Apart


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. In the Middle East, the day started with hopes for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. By the end of the day, rockets were firing again. Israel announced its first fatality in this eight-day conflict. So far, the Palestinian death toll is around 200 with another 1,400 people wounded. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us from Jerusalem to discuss how the day unfolded. And Ari, people in the region had some optimism earlier in the day about the potential of a cease-fire. What happened?

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Well, right. As you say, Egypt had proposed a cease-fire last night. It did not solve the big problems, but it basically said everybody put down your weapons, come to Cairo and spend a couple of days talking about how to resolve this. So first thing this morning, the Israeli cabinet met and agreed to the terms. Israel's military put out a statement saying it would hold fire, quote, "we remain alert and preserve high preparedness levels, both defensive and offensive." They said if the Hamas terror organization will fire at Israel, we shall respond.

CORNISH: And how did the Palestinians respond?

SHAPIRO: Well, initially there was no response from Hamas. I went to Ramallah in the West Bank and spoke with Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi. She belongs to the more moderate Palestinian party, Fatah. She said look, most members of Hamas are in prison or in hiding. They can't exactly have a cabinet meeting to reach a quick verdict on this. Don't expect them to come out with a decision right away. When I asked if she was try to convince Hamas to accept the deal, she said no.

HANAN ASHRAWI: We don't want to pressure anybody. It's a process of persuasion. If people are persuaded that this is in the best interest of the Palestinians and if they understand that this is in context - it is not a one-time thing - that it opens the door to the lifting of the siege, it opens the door to some sort of accountability for Israel and curbs on its behavior, then we can have a sort of qualitative step forward - a paradigm shift.

CORNISH: Ari, you describe her as a moderate. How did the militants respond?

SHAPIRO: Well, I left Ashrawi's office and visited a Hamas spokesman in the West Bank. His name was Alaa Rimawi and he had a very different reaction to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. First, he pointed out that Egypt's current government is very hostile to Hamas, which is true. And he said the Egyptians created the cease-fire proposal without consulting Hamas. He told me this initiative included all the Israeli requests and has not dealt whatsoever with the Palestinian demands.

ALAA RIMAWI: Foreign language spoken.

SHAPIRO: He said rejecting the initiative is unanimous. This I know for sure. However, there might be discussion over a state of calm, a temporary state of calm.

CORNISH: Ari, so far there is no temporary state of calm. Looking forward, what are you hearing?

SHAPIRO: Well, in the evening, the Israeli military put out a statement saying since nine o'clock this morning, 96 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel. That's a pretty typical day in this conflict. Later, the government said a rocket killed an Israeli civilian today, as you mentioned. That was the first Israeli death in this conflict even as the Palestinian death toll climbs above 190. So Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on TV and said Israel will expand and intensify its military campaign. A ground assault is still possible. We have not seen a large-scale incursion into Gaza yet, but those tanks and tens-of-thousands of Israeli troops remain lined-up at the border and the resolution to this conflict that seemed really within close reach just 24-hours ago, now looks pretty far off once again.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ari Shapiro in Jerusalem. Ari, thanks so much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.

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