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Cease-Fires Refused, Ignored And Re-Offered: The Latest From Gaza


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. A cease-fire in Gaza lasted 12 hours yesterday. Since then, it's been a confusing back-and-forth. Late last night, Israel proposed extending yesterday's cease-fire, but Hamas said the terms were unacceptable. Those roles are reversed this morning. Hamas is now calling for a cease-fire, and Israel is resisting. We're joined now by NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza to find out how close this conflict is to ending, nearly three weeks since it began. Emily, what's the latest?

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Well, just like you said, Arun, it is confusing. The negotiation - the back-and-forth you described - was mostly happening late last night. It included rocket fire from Israel - from, excuse me, from Gaza into Israel shortly after Israel had proposed extending a truce. Then this morning, Israel - after more rocket fire - Israel made it clear it was resuming full military action - land, sea and air. And after making a statement, there were a lot of attacks around Gaza that were heard and some more deaths recorded by the Palestinian Ministry of Health here in Gaza.

The proposal that Hamas put forth - to take on - to accept a 24 hour cease-fire starting this afternoon. Now, yes, Israel is making signals that it probably won't accept it. There are some sticky points here. Israel wants to be clear that it is going to stay in Gaza and have its soldiers still look for and destroy tunnels that militants use here while there is any cease-fire going on.

Hamas has said, at first, that that's unacceptable. And that the reason they say they proposed a cease-fire this afternoon was because the Muslim holiday of Eid is tomorrow. And also they said the UN intervened and got them on board. Where it stands now is a little unclear.

RATH: So what do you say the prospects are given the difficulties right now?

HARRIS: Well, you know, as you know, Secretary Kerry was in the region recently and has been working hard with other diplomats around the world to try to bring an end - first, at least, to the fighting and then perhaps some kind of longer-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

This idea of rolling cease-fires is actually something that U.S. officials have been promoting as a way to keep at - keep providing, on a daily basis, some kind of end to hostilities, at least temporarily and then get negotiations going.

So, so far, these rolling cease-fires haven't really caught on. Whether that gives room for diplomacy or whether diplomacy is going on behind the scenes anyway is not completely clear. But certainly, work is being done to that end. One thing Israel has made really clear is they want to destroy as much of the Hamas infrastructure that are used for military purposes as they can. And until that happens, I don't think we would see real discussions going on.

RATH: Emily, during that 12 hour cease-fire yesterday, what were things like in Gaza?

HARRIS: Oh, people poured out into the streets. A lot of them went back to places where they had been completely destroyed by bombing and artillery strikes to see what was left of their homes - also to get things that they need for places they're staying now, like mattresses, clothing, cooking utensils.

Today, things were a lot quieter. People were out - some. Some doing shopping - buying new clothing for their children, for Eid, for example. But there is uncertainty as to what's next. People told us, though, that they didn't really pay that much attention to the back-and-forth that we've been talking about. They kind of use their gut feeling and their ears to decide whether it was safe to go out.

RATH: That's NPR's Emily Harris speaking with us from Gaza. Emily, thanks so much.

HARRIS: Thanks, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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