The war between Israel and the Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip could end up as a victory of sorts for both sides. Hamas' popularity in the Arab world has skyrocketed. Hamas leaders say they've forced Israel to the negotiating table by launching rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and held their own for the last week. Their rivals in the Palestinian Authority have been marginalized. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has received a huge boost to his popularity in the midst of an election campaign. Sheera Frenkel talks to Audie Cornish.
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour with growing talk of a cease fire in the fight between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, but at this point, it is still just talk. Officials in Israel and in Egypt, where negotiations are underway, say there is no agreement yet. In the meantime, the fighting has intensified, with more casualties on both sides.
Earlier, I spoke with reporter Sheera Frenkel. She spent the day along Israel's border with Gaza, where she'd been hearing a very heavy exchange of hostilities.
SHEERA FRENKEL, BYLINE: In the last hour, I've heard at least 20 different volleys back and forth. We're hearing heavy, heavy artillery shelling from the Israeli side and that artillery shelling is going along with Israel's navy, which is hitting Gaza along the coast and Israeli air strikes, which are hitting sites across the Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian officials, the death toll now is 130 Palestinians killed. Of course, on the Israeli side, there's quite a bit of violence as well. We're hearing from Israeli officials that more than 100 rockets hit Israel and two people died today, bringing the total death toll in Israel to five Israelis. One of those rockets, in particular, hit in Rishon Letzion, which is a suburb of Tel Aviv.
Until now, we've seen a few rockets hitting close to Tel Aviv, but this actually managed to strike a building. No one was hurt there because they were all inside the bomb shelter, but it seems to have had a real sort of psychological impact on Israelis, who are asking if this is really the right time for Israel to go ahead with the cease fire agreement.
One of the Israelis I spoke to earlier today here near the Gaza border said to me that he thinks that Israel should reconsider going forward with the cease fire agreement. You're going to hear him now. His name is Haim Shelev(ph)
HAIM SHELEV: I do not think that there should be a cease fire because the operation is not over. They destroyed many of their long range missiles, but the short range missiles are still existing and I think that they should've destroyed all of the ammunitions stores, so way in the south will have some peace also. Not only in Tel Aviv, not only in Jerusalem.
FRENKEL: And that's something you're really hearing a lot of, people here in the southern part of Israel, which has grown all too accustomed to rocket fire are saying that Israel should continue its operation, while those within the center and farther north are saying that a cease fire agreement will be best for both sides at this point.
CORNISH: So at this point, we're now in the seventh day of the hostilities. Given what you've told us, is there a sense of a broader shift in what the Israeli public is saying about this?
FRENKEL: I've spoken to quite a few Israeli analysts today who say that the public is really divided on this question. Some people really think that Israel should press on forward, perhaps even launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. But one of the people I spoke today, Nakmun Shi(ph), he's a lawmaker in the Israeli Kadima Party, said a ground invasion would not be the right course of action.
He pointed out that the casualty rate in a ground invasion is incredibly high on both the Israeli and Palestinian side and that the international community really wouldn't continue to support Israel's actions in Gaza to the degree that they have so far if Israel did send ground troops in.
CORNISH: Sheera, yesterday you mentioned that the fighting has affected the popularity of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Politically, he has gotten a kind of boost from this. Can you tell us what the effect has been for Hamas?
FRENKEL: Hamas' popularity is certainly boosted as well. We've been hearing from Palestinian analysts in both the West Bank and Gaza that Hamas is now a real force to be reckoned with. In addition to sort of the international show of support and specifically the support from the Arab world, they've had delegations visiting them for the first time from Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia.
And Palestinian analyst, Gasam Khatib(ph), he's an analyst in Ramallah, said that the international community would have to take Hamas a lot more seriously and perhaps begin negotiating with them as well.
CORNISH: Sheera Frenkel, reporting from the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Sheera, thank you.
FRENKEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.