Conflict Continues In Gaza Strip, With No Cease-Fire In Sight
TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Tamara Keith in for Scott Simon. The conflict continues between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip. Israeli air strikes have killed more than 120 Palestinians since Tuesday morning. In Israel, nearly a dozen Israelis have been seriously injured by rocket fire from Gaza. There is no cease-fire in sight, but there may be some indications of a slowdown. NPR's Emily Harris joins us from Gaza City. Hi, Emily.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Good morning.
KEITH: What indications are there of a slowdown?
HARRIS: Well, very little indications, but the one thing some people in Gaza are pointing to is that there's less rocket fire coming from Gaza this morning - just a half a dozen rockets fired; that's compared to nearly 700 fired from Gaza into Israel since early Tuesday morning. This may be wishful thinking, but some people here are hopeful that that means something - some retreat from Hamas. Israeli airstrikes continued. There were 160-some in the last 24 hours. That is down by about 25 percent from the previous 24 hours. So if you're looking at it by the numbers, that's what you've got.
As far as political indications of a slowdown, there are none really. A spokesman of Hamas yesterday said that Hamas will take on Israel in a ground war and that Gaza will be a cemetery for Israeli soldiers - so some pretty strong rhetoric, anyway, there. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday said that military strikes will continue until - that Israel can be certain that there is no more rocket fire. There are Israeli press reports today that say there's a cease-fire being drafted by other Arab states. These Israeli reports say Israel is open to discuss a cease-fire but that Hamas needs some kind of victory before it can end.
KEITH: And what is it like in Gaza right now?
HARRIS: Oh, it's kind of odd. Really, it's quiet. The streets are quiet. There's this wariness, though, that, you know, death could burst from the sky at any second. Obviously, this is something that Israelis are experiencing as well with rocket fire there. But here, there are no warnings sirens. There's not an Iron Dome to intercept anything. The military strength of Israel is tremendously more powerful than the military strength of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or other groups here.
In some cases, Israel does warn people about strikes. For example, I spoke to a woman this morning whose neighbor is part of Hamas, that that person got a phone call this morning to get out of the house. He alerted the neighbors. This is sort of normal. She burst into tears. Her husband said, don't cry in front of the children. She took the kids to a friend's. She went to work.
KEITH: And a normal life continues in the midst of all this?
HARRIS: Well, in some ways, it has to. If you aren't right next to a rocket attack, you might not even know it happens - or close enough by to hear it. I did speak to a man this morning whose, you know, baby came two weeks early three days ago. And he had to take the baby boy to the doctor last night at night. He had to do it even though he didn't want to be driving around at night. So, yes, people do carry on as they can.
KEITH: And briefly - we don't have much time - but there have been similar flare-ups like this in recent years. Is there any sense of what's coming next in this conflict?
HARRIS: The big question is whether there will be a ground invasion. Israel is preparing for that with troops outside and also has warned Gazans in the border areas to leave. But the big question is, what do both sides need before this conflict can end? Is Israel going to let Hamas be in control of the Gaza Strip, which they are still, although, formally they've stepped out of the government role. Does Hamas need some kind of victory, even letting concrete into the Gaza Strip - something that Israel controls very tightly - even that might be enough of a victory to call things off. But no one knows.
KEITH: NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza City. Thanks so much.
HARRIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.