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News Wrap: Israel, Hamas agree to three-day cease-fire

August 4, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word this evening that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a three-day cease-fire starting early tomorrow. Egypt proposed it, with negotiations to follow a halt in the Gaza fighting that has killed almost 1,900 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis. The news came hours after Israel observed its own short truce for part of the day.

The brief unilateral cease-fire was designed, Israelis said, to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

YOEL BENON, Deputy Director of Security, Kerem Shalom Border Crossing: They all bring flour, rice and foodstuffs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The seven-hour lull didn’t apply everywhere, but was supposed to enable at least some Palestinians to return to their homes. Tens of thousands have been forced out by airstrikes and heavy fighting. But Hamas charged the Israelis broke their own truce by striking a house in Gaza City, killing an 8-year-old girl and injuring at least 30 others.

NADYEH ABUTUH, Gaza Resident (through interpreter): We were having breakfast and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of rubble. We pulled all of these people out from the rubble, as you can see.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Elsewhere, eight Palestinians from one family were killed in early-morning shelling in Beit Lahia in Gaza’s northern reaches. The cease-fire also didn’t cover Rafah on Gaza’s southern border, where heavy fighting that began Friday continued today amid widespread destruction, all of this as much of the Israeli ground force withdrew from Gaza, while aerial bombardments continued.

There were two other attacks today on the streets of Jerusalem. A Palestinian man rammed an excavator into a city bus near the dividing line between Jewish West Jerusalem and a predominantly-Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

MICKY ROSENFELD, Spokesman, Israel Police: The tractor made its way down the main road and hit a bus, flipped the bus over. At this moment in time, what we know from the police officers that arrived at the scene opened fire at one of the suspects inside the tractor itself. He was shot and killed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A pedestrian was also killed in the incident. Separately, an Israeli soldier in Jerusalem was shot and seriously wounded.

Meanwhile, there was more fallout from Sunday’s Israeli airstrike on a United Nations school in Rafah. Three suspected militants were killed, along with seven others lined up for food aid. It was only the latest such attack and drew strong condemnations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called it a moral outrage. The U.S. State Department branded it disgraceful.

Today, a White House spokesman explained the strong words.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: What that State Department statement made clear is that the suspicion that militants are operating nearby doesn’t justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hours later came the reports from Egypt that Israel and Hamas had accepted yet another cease-fire proposal.

In another development, the State Department played down a report that Israel intercepted phone calls by Secretary of State John Kerry last year. The account in the German magazine “Der Spiegel” said Kerry used unsecured phones during a push for Middle East peace talks.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki:

JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: We have better disposal tools to secure phones and computers for highly classified communication, but there are also times we communicate less sensitive information via open lines to world leaders and others. We are fully aware of the possible risks. We will continue to utilize open communications channels when appropriate and secure communication channels when necessary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The magazine reports that intelligence agencies in Russia and China may also have listened in on Kerry’s calls.

GWEN IFILL: Lebanese army soldiers advanced against Islamist rebels from Syria today in a battle for a border town. The fighting around Arsal began on Saturday. Thousands of civilians and Syrian refugees have fled the area since then.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rescue crews in southern China dug out scores of survivors today from the rubble of a Sunday earthquake. It killed at least 398 people and wrecked 12,000 homes. Thousands of soldiers and local police have now joined the rescue operation. They’re working against the clock, as rain is expected to fall in the area over the next three days.

GWEN IFILL: A massive landslide in Nepal is raising fears of flooding and causing mass evacuations in Eastern India. The disaster happened Saturday on a mountain river 75 miles east of Katmandu, the Nepalese capital. The landslide, touched off by monsoon rains, blocked a river and formed a new lake. It now threatens to overflow and inundate villages where 125,000 people live downriver in India.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Northern California, two large wildfires have scorched nearly 100 square miles. The two fires, burning about eight miles apart, expanded from a national forest onto private property over the weekend. It destroyed eight homes and forced the evacuation of a small hospital. Large fires are also burning in southern Oregon and Washington State.

GWEN IFILL: For the first time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to disclose how much pollution its dams are sending into the nation’s waterways. The Corps today settled a federal lawsuit in Oregon filed by the conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper. The group has said the Corps failed to monitor oil discharges from eight dams in Oregon and Washington.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report today on New York City’s juvenile jails. It found a — quote — “culture of violence” at facilities that hold 16-to-18-year-old offenders. Federal prosecutors said guards routinely use excessive force and violate inmates rights. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to reform the jail system.

GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks made up a bit of last week’s lost ground; the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 76 points to close at 16,569; the Nasdaq rose 31 points to close near 4,384; and the S&P 500 added more than 13 points to finish at nearly 1,939.