Israeli Attacks, Palestinian Rocket Fire Continue Amid Diplomatic Efforts
(We rewrote the top of this post at 7:45 p.m. ET to sum up the day's news.)
The sixth day of Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip saw Israel striking a media center and other Palestinian targets, raising the Palestinian death toll to more than 100. Palestinian militants fired 95 rockets at Israel; a third of them were intercepted by Iron Dome, the Israeli missile shield. Also Monday, a flurry of diplomacy that attempted to mediate a cease-fire between the two sides.
Casualties: Thirty-eight Palestinians were killed Monday, raising to 109 the Palestinian death toll since the start of the Israeli operation; 56 civilians are among the dead. Three Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire since the operation began. Gaza health officials say 840 people have been wounded, including 225 children; dozens of Israeli civilians have been wounded as well. The numbers come from The Associated Press.
Diplomacy: Egypt is mediating talks between the two sides. Intelligence officials in Cairo met separately with an Israeli representative and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal. At the U.N., the Security Council met behind closed-doors to discuss the issue. On Tuesday, foreign ministers from Turkey and Arab League countries were scheduled to visit Gaza; U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres; also, Germany's foreign minister was scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Our original post and earlier updates:
Today's news about the airstrikes and rocket fire being exchanged by Israel and fighters in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and related developments:
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET. Obama Speaks To Leaders Of Egypt And Israel:
Earlier today, President Obama (who is in Cambodia) called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House says in a statement it just released. It says that
"[Obama and Morsi] discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and President Obama underscored the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel. President Obama also offered condolences for the terrible loss of life in the recent train accident in Egypt. President Obama then called Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and received an update on the situation in Gaza and Israel. In both calls, President Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives, and agreed to stay in close touch with both leaders."
Update at 1:05 p.m. ET. U.N. Secretary-General To Meet With Israeli And Palestinian Leaders:
After his talks today in Cairo, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is going to Israel to speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to the West Bank to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a U.N. spokesman has told Reuters and other news outlets.
Update at 1 p.m. ET. New Analysis:
Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. U.S. Repeats That De-escalation Must Begin With End Of Rocket Fire From Gaza:
Aboard Air Force One today, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that "our position continues to be that those nations in the region, particularly nations that have influence over Hamas, and that's principally Egypt and Turkey, also Qatar ... that those nations need to use that influence to de-escalate the conflict. And de-escalation has to begin with, again, an end to rocket fire from Gaza.
"We are also speaking to the Israelis on a regular basis to update them about our contacts with these various countries. The Israelis are having their own conversations I'm sure. But the general goal here is de-escalation, because as the president said — as you heard him in the press conference say, Israel has a right to defend itself. The best way to make sure that Israel is secure and the situation doesn't escalate is for there to be a peaceful resolution and de-escalation rather than a military — a continued military conflict."
Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. High-Rise Hit; Talk Of Truce Continues:
"Witnesses say an Israeli airstrike has hit a high-rise in downtown Gaza City where a number of local and foreign news organizations have offices," The Associated Press writes. There are reports of at least one death.
Meanwhile, correspondent Leila Fadel reports from Cairo that Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal says Israel has requested a truce. But Reuters reports that Israeli officials say that's not true.
Egyptian officials, she adds, have been telling reporters there's a chance a truce agreement could be reached before day's end.
7 a.m. ET. Our original post:
The deadly back-and-forth between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip continues. There have been more Israeli air strikes on Hamas targets today and more rockets fired from Gaza toward southern Israel.
Israeli forces targeted some 80 locations overnight, including rocket launch sites, police stations and smuggling tunnels, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Gaza City. The death toll in Gaza now stands at more than 80 (some news outlets put the toll at more than 90). They include 12 members of one family, Anthony reports, who were killed by a strike aimed at a Hamas operative. Hundreds more have been wounded Gaza.
Hamas rocket fire has killed at least three Israelis in the past week.
On Morning Edition, Anthony spoke with host Renee Montagne. As he said,the two sides dispute who started the latest fighting, which has been going on for about six days. Correspondent Sheera Frankel reported from Israel about the Iron Dome anti-missile system that nation's defense forces are using to knock down many of the rockets fired from Gaza.
Meanwhile, "international pressure for a truce [has] intensified," as Reuters reports:
"United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Muslim Brotherhood-rooted government has been hosting leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction in the Palestinian enclave.
"Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had also been to Cairo for the truce talks. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government declined comment on the matter."
But The Guardian writes that "the war in Gaza appears to be in a grim holding pattern, poised before the alternatives of a ceasefire or a ground offensive by Israeli tanks and troops. ... Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said some progress had been made at ceasefire talks in Cairo, but a truce was not imminent. ... A senior Israeli official in Jerusalem told the Haaretz newspaper that Israel did not expect a breakthrough."
Haaretz, which is live-blogging, adds that "Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah and Egyptian intelligence officials are meeting in Cairo in an effort to reach an agreement on a cease-fire in Gaza. According to Egyptian media reports, Egyptian intelligence chief Raafat Shehata presented Israel's response to Hamas' demands for a cease-fire."