Egypt, U.S. Help Negotiate Cease-Fire In Gaza
Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement to end more than a week of fighting that killed at least 140 Palestinians and five Israelis. The agreement was brokered by the Egyptian government, assisted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent the day shuttling around the region. Hamas has agreed to shop firing rockets into Israel in return for a loosening of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and an end to the assassination of Hamas officials. Leila Fadel talks to Robert Siegel.
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Israel and Hamas have agreed to an immediate cease-fire. That brings an end to eight days of fighting. The death toll at last count: at least 140 Palestinians and five Israelis. Today's agreement was brokered by the Egyptian government, with a big assist from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent the day shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo. The cease-fire was announced by the Egyptian foreign minister and Secretary Clinton at a joint news conference in Cairo.
NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from the Egyptian capital. And, Leila, first, this is a truce to end the fighting for now. Details are still to be negotiated. What do we know about the broad outline of the agreement?
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, what we do know is that Hamas has promised that there would be no rockets being fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, and they would be responsible for that. No attacks across the border. And Israel has promised to stop assassinating its leadership and to cease the hostilities immediately. So that was what was agreed upon.
But there's also a lot of details still to be worked out. Israel has tentatively agreed to ease the blockade, the land and sea blockade that is, in some way, strangling the Gaza Strip.
SIEGEL: Is there a sense in Cairo that this agreement will hold and that Hamas will be able to restrain other militant groups in Gaza from firing rockets into Israel?
FADEL: Well, I think there's a hope that it will hold. We've spoken to Hamas officials here in Cairo who say they believe they can control all Palestinian factions that do have rockets from firing them into Israel. He says that this is an agreement that will finally allow for Palestinians to breathe again in the Gaza Strip and allow for them to travel and ease these restrictions that have been hurting the area.
But what's unclear is whether an agreement can actually be made on this blockade. So the next 24 hours, this agreement will be worked out. And if for some reason someone breaks the cease-fire or negotiations go bad, we may see a return to hostility.
SIEGEL: Now, as we said, Egypt's played a key role in these negotiations. What was at stake for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his relatively new government?
FADEL: This is a huge political victory domestically. He was able to show that he got involved in a very violent process and end it. He's had a lot of problems with the economy, with the constitutional process here, which just seems to be falling apart. But he's been able to show that Egypt is an international player.
They mediated this cease-fire. They were the only ones speaking to both parties, to their security, their long-term security connection to Israel, also speaking to Hamas, which is an ideological ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, which President Mohammed Morsi belongs to. And so, really, they showed themselves as a key player.
But it's also a risky move because, in some ways, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammed Morsi have taken on the role of guarantor for Hamas and for the Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Leila Fadel, speaking to us from Cairo. Thanks, Leila.
FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.