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Gaza Fighting Continues Despite U.N. Resolution


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Renee Montagne. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last night calling for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. But the Israeli prime minister has rejected a call for a ceasefire, and the fighting continues. The Israelis carried out a new round of airstrikes overnight; Hamas launched more rockets into Israel. Aid groups said their workers were trying to help civilians in Gaza when they came under Israeli fire. Those aid groups are now suspending operations in the territory. Joining us with an update is NPR's Eric Westervelt in Jerusalem. Good morning, Eric.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: It appears the UN resolution has done nothing to change the situation on the ground.

WESTERVELT: That's right. Fighting continues today: new airstrikes, new ground attacks, new rockets into Israel from Hamas. The prime minister, just moments ago, said the UN Security Council resolution, quote, "is not practical." And he said, given the fire from Hamas into Israel that continues, the Israeli military, in his words, "will continue acting to protect the Israeli citizens and will carry out its mission." So, the fighting does continue. It looks like the Israeli leaders are ready to continue to press their offensive into Gaza. Hamas leaders, for their part, Renee, said through a spokesman they hadn't been consulted on the UN resolution and did not recognize it, and as we said, they continue to fire rockets.

MONTAGNE: The UN, in the midst of all of this, has suspended all aid operations in Gaza, after one of its drivers was killed by Israeli tank fire. The Red Cross has protested quite strongly Israeli actions. What else is going on with aid groups there?

WESTERVELT: Yeah, the Red Cross, as well as the UN, has said they're curtailing actions in Gaza City today. The Red Cross says a convoy yesterday, clearly marked as a Red Cross convoy, came under Israeli tank fire, wounding several of the drivers. The UN has a similar story, saying a clearly marked UN convoy that was coordinated with the Israeli military came under Israeli tank fire, and that killed a UN driver. Other aid agencies say they're having a real difficult time, and they blame the Israeli military, saying the military is hindering efforts to deliver aid and to retrieve and pick up and help the wounded. The Israeli military has had a pretty muted response to these charges, Renee. They're saying only that they're looking into it and that they'll do their best, and are doing their best, to avoid civilian casualties, but aid groups throughout Gaza are leveling some very serious and strongly worded charges.

MONTAGNE: Well, as Palestinian civilians are being killed, three Israeli soldiers were also killed by Hamas fire yesterday. The Israeli army appears to be at something of a crossroads as to whether to push deeper into the cities in Gaza or to pull back.

WESTERVELT: That's right. Israeli forces have been fighting on the edges, especially in the north and on the eastern side, Renee, of Gaza City. But they have yet to really push deeper into these urban areas. There has been fighting, as I say, on the edges. That may change now that the security cabinet today has said the army will continue its military operations. They didn't give details of that, but it appears that the army now will be given the green light to push deeper in there, and that will certainly be a tough and bloody and difficult fight. Three Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday, and aside from a friendly-fire incident earlier in the week, it was the Israeli military's worst and deadliest day since the fighting began. And Hamas, it appears, is trying to draw the Israeli forces deeper into these dense, urban areas, where they hope the Israeli heavy armor and superior firepower has simply less of an advantage.

MONTAGNE: Eric, where should we be looking on the diplomatic front?

WESTERVELT: Well, Egypt's been trying to play a key role in stopping the fighting, but appears talks in Cairo, Renee, have made no real progress. Egyptian mediators report Hamas has rejected a ceasefire proposal and Israel hasn't embraced this Egyptian/French proposal either. And with both sides sort of ignoring this UN resolution passed last night, it's now unclear where do you look for diplomatic leadership to try to get a ceasefire on the ground.

MONTAGNE: Eric, thanks very much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Eric Westervelt speaking to us from Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.