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Rocket, Missile Attacks Persist In Gaza Strip

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

There was hope last night that a ceasefire might be reached between Israel and Hamas. That has not happened, and the death toll continues to rise. Israel is hammering Gaza with airstrikes, while rockets from Gaza streak toward Israel. Also today, a bomb exploded aboard a bus in Tel Aviv, wounding at least 10 people. Israeli officials called it a terrorist attack. It could certainly complicate efforts to reach a truce.

MONTAGNE: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now in Cairo, the latest stop as she joins the diplomatic push to end the fighting. There, she's meeting with Egypt's president, who is at the center of mediation efforts. Earlier, she held talks in Jerusalem with the Israeli prime minister, and then met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah. For more on the diplomatic side of the story, we'll go in a moment to NPR's Leila Fadel, in Cairo. First, to NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who is in Gaza.

WERTHEIMER: Good morning, Anthony.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hello.

WERTHEIMER: So what is happening right now?

KUHN: Well, first of all, the bombing on the bus in Tel Aviv is being investigated. This was in the city center near a defense headquarters. It's still not clear how the bomb got onto the bus, whether it was thrown on or placed on earlier. The bomb essentially gutted the bus, leaving it charred and with glass strewn all over. Ten people are - at least 10 people are injured.

Now, wire services are saying that Al-Aqsa TV, the Hamas-affiliated media, said that Hamas was pleased with this attack, given Israel's attacks on Palestinian civilians. However, we haven't confirmed this independently.

WERTHEIMER: Anthony, what are you seeing in terms of fighting from the Hamas side in Gaza?

KUHN: Well, you very seldom actually see Hamas fighters on the streets here. What you see is rockets taking off right from the middle of the city, from empty lots, from little alleyways between buildings. And apparently, a lot of the rocket launch facilities are buried underground, sometimes under trapdoors. So you do not see a, you know, big presence of fighters or anything. What you mostly see are rockets going out, aimed north, towards Tel Aviv, or northeast towards Jerusalem, or to other parts of southern Israel.

WERTHEIMER: Tremendous efforts are being made to avert the possibility of a ground invasion by Israel into Gaza. Are you seeing any signs of preparations for that?

KUHN: Well, Hamas officials tell us that they are prepared for the eventuality of a ground assault by Israel. They know that thousands of Israeli troops are amassed on the borders and awaiting orders to invade if Israel deems that necessary. They also admit that they're a completely outclassed military. They have - militarily, they do not have tanks or warplanes or any of the heavy equipment that Israel does, but they say they are prepared to hang on and defend Gaza in the case of a ground assault.

WERTHEIMER: Israel has been saying that it has eroded Hamas' ability to fire rockets, as well. Do you see any evidence of that?

KUHN: It's very hard to tell what sort of stocks they have and how much their ability to fire has been degraded. We've seen and heard outgoing rockets today. It's clear they're still able to mount these attacks when there are periods when they seem to be launching fewer rockets. It's not clear whether they have political considerations in mind, or whether they are - you know, their abilities have been, indeed, been degraded. But they're certainly still very capable of carrying out attacks and of hitting, you know, the major population centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

WERTHEIMER: What about civilians in Gaza, in Gaza City?

KUHN: Well, for days now, the city has been something of a ghost town. It's been - you know, stores are shuttered. Schools have been shut down. And a lot of people know which way Israeli soldiers come in, when they will invade or which neighborhoods will be targeted for a bombing. And a lot of residents in those areas are now sleeping on couches of friends and relatives. They have gotten out of the way. People are grimly familiar with this routine, and they're settled into it and they're not necessarily expecting any letup soon.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Anthony Kuhn, in Gaza City. Thank you very much.

KUHN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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