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‘Aggressive assault’ in Gaza muddles long-term resolution between Israel and Hamas

August 2, 2014 at 6:00 PM EDT
After a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas broke down after only hours on Friday, it was unclear Saturday if or when a longer resolution might play out -- especially as violence on the ground intensified during one of the most aggressive assaults yet in the conflict. Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Jerusalem.

HARI SREENIVASAN: We’re joined once again tonight via Skype from Jerusalem by Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times. So what do we know about these planned negotiations in Egypt?

JODI RUDOREN: Well, two things. I mean, first of all, these negotiations were part of the plan that Secretary of State John Kerry and the head of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon arranged to have this 72-hour cease-fire, during which talks would commence on the larger, more substantive agreement to end the fighting. That fell apart, as you mentioned, yesterday when Israel resumed its attack after being confronted by militants who came out of a tunnel. They killed two soldiers and seemed to have captured an officer, so that whole thing fell apart.

The Palestinians decided to go ahead and go to Cairo, but the Israelis, they haven’t definitively said they’re not going, but it seems fairly clear they’re not. So it’s unclear what the point of those talks exactly is going to be, but, you know, longer term, if there is going to be any resolution of this beyond just them tiring themselves out, it is going to happen in talks in Cairo.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, has the intensity on the ground or the Israeli response changed after this missing soldier?

JODI RUDOREN: Yeah, significantly in the southern border town of Rafah, which is near where the tunnel was. There’s been a really aggressive assault, maybe the most aggressive of this whole campaign. My colleague Ben Hubbard was on the ground today in the western side of town, which is the kind of opposite side of town from where the action was. All sorts of people had evacuated there. The hospital in the east side of town had been hit, so there was no hospital functioning in Rafah. People were getting treated at clinics.

He said that there were a lot of bodies that were being preserved in, like, kitchen-type freezers, because there was no room in any morgue. He said it was a very desperate situation there, and they have been under intense air and artillery shelling overnight and, I think, through to some of today. It was quiet, I think, during the daylight.

In other parts in Gaza, the operation seems to have cooled down some. The military informed residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya that they could go back to their homes and it would be safe, so they may be done operating in the north.  So it’s not an overall picture of increase.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There seems to be some back and forth on exactly who has been killed. Israel came out today and said that 47 percent of those killed in Gaza may be terrorists or would be terrorists. Gazan human rights groups say 80 percent of those killed are civilians.

JODI RUDOREN: Yeah, I think it’s not definitive and certainly, it’s hard to tell in the middle of the battle. I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure because, partly because the definition of what a militant is in Gaza is a little bit fluid. It’s not like you enlist necessarily in the military and get a uniform and a badge number. They do have, you know, military training and uniforms and ranks and things like that. But there are lost of other people whom the Israelis might consider part of the militia who the Palestinians might not. And so I think these are imperfect analyses at best.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times, joining us via Skype from Jerusalem,  thanks so much.

JODI RUDOREN: Thank you.