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No sign of violence letting up in Gaza after conflict logs deadliest day

July 20, 2014 at 6:27 PM EDT
After more than 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli solders were killed in battle Saturday in what has been the deadliest day in the conflict so far, there are few signs of the violence letting up as urban warfare continues to break out in Gaza.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Turning now to the conflict in the Middle East, Secretary of State Kerry today also offered a robust defense of Israel’s military operations to end rocketfire from Gaza and to destroy hidden tunnels there. Kerry called on Hamas to negotiate.

SECRETARY KERRY: “We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels. Israel has accepted a unilateral ceasefire. It has accepted the Egyptian plan, which we also support. And it is important for Hamas to now step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept a ceasefire, you save lives, and that’s the way that we can proceed to have a discussion about all the underlying issues, which President Obama has clearly indicated a willingness to do.”

HARI SREENIVASAN: This, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced regret about civilian casualties in Gaza but said the Israeli military will press on.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I support taking whatever action is necessary to stop this insane situation. Just imagine, imagine what Israel is going through. Imagine that 75 percent of the U.S. population is under rocket fire and they have to be in bomb shelters within 60 to 90 seconds. So I’m not just talking about New York. New York, Washington, Chigago, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, you name it. That’s impossible. You can’t live like that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about of all this we’re joined once again tonight by Jodi Rudoren. She is the New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem. We just heard Benjamin Netanyahu saying pretty much any means necessary, what else is left?

JODI RUDOREN: Well,  I mean you know, it can always escalate in Gaza. It was a very ugly day there with a very intense battle Shuja’iyeh in East Gaza City. The deadliest day of the conflict so far, more than 60 Palestinians and now we know 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in that battle. But there could be more and more urban warfare there.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is the most serious setback that Israel’s faced in this most recent conflict, 13 soldiers at once.

JODI RUDOREN: Yeah, that was the entire casualty amount from the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead. I think this is the deadliest day for Israel in quite a while.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So are soldiers being evacuated? Are there more soldiers on the borders?

JODI RUDOREN: There are dozens of soldiers to have been taken to Israeli hospitals and are being treated, including a very senior commander of the Golani brigade — that was where all the 13 belonged to. I don’t know whether soldiers are retreating or how they’re regrouping.  There was a brief and sort of not fully exercised halt in hostilities this afternoon to let some humanitarian help get into the Shuja’iyeh neighborhoods, some ambulances and other things. But I believe the fighting has resumed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, yesterday we referenced that Ban-Ki Moon of the United Nations was supposed to come to the region. Now, we hear that he’s in Qatar. Any update on any ceasefire negotiations or any conversations of that sort?

JODI RUDOREN: Nothing concrete or significant but President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian authority, I believe is also in Qatar today and may be meeting today with Khaled Meshal the political chief of Hamas, which is a significant step, a significant meeting and could yield something .There’s increasing calls from the Americans and the Israelis to let President Abbas kind of fix this and get a better grip on Gaza, which is an interesting turn around from Israel’s position when Abbas and Hamas signed a reconciliation pact in April and basically, Israel has been calling on President Abbas to cancel that pact ever since. But now maybe is going to give him some berth to help resolve this crisis.

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

JODI RUDOREN: Thank you.