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The fragile ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas seems to be holding

The cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas held for a second day. Meanwhile, Gazans returned to their homes to survey the damage as UN humanitarian relief officials said rebuilding health facilities was a high priority because of the coronavirus pandemic. NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin joins to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NPR Correspondent Daniel Estrin is in Gaza City and he joined us earlier today.

    Daniel, you're in Gaza City now. What have the last two days of this ceasefire been like?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Well, Palestinians are finally venturing out of their homes after 11 days of conflict. And everyone has described to me the feelings of just being terrified during those days, describing huddling with their families, especially at night in the center of their house, in the place where they feel that they're away from windows and feeling they were the safest. And now that we're on the second day of the cease fire, you feel a sense of a rhythm of life again.

    Just right over here, there's the beach and the promenade. The ice cream shop is open. People, families are walking on the promenade. I met this one family, the mother said she was visiting her father-in-law and she said it's the first time we're venturing out of our homes and we are seeing the pain and the destruction that we only saw on the news on TV as we were huddled in our homes. So it's a really strange sight because it's not that you see flattened neighborhoods.

    The destruction in this war was spread out throughout the Gaza Strip. And so what you'll see is buildings intact and then right next to it, almost completely intact building, you'll see a completely demolished building with a pile of cement and twisted wires and mattresses and window drapes and refrigerators and socks and documents. And now so many Palestinians in Gaza are venturing out and specifically going to see those sites themselves.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    We're hearing that there are negotiators, Egyptian negotiators, meeting with multiple sides of this. Is there any hope that the peace here is longer lasting than just a few days?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Well, Egyptian mediators are in Gaza and they have been the main player here in speaking to both Hamas, also Palestinian Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas, which, he's a rival of Hamas in the West Bank and Israel. They are trying to now work out the terms of this cease fire.

    Hamas is demanding that Jerusalem be at the center of negotiations, that Israel be made to change some of its policies in Jerusalem. Israel wants commitments from the world that Hamas will not be able to rebuild militarily. And so now it's just a sense of will this cease fire hold? We are two days in and both sides seem interested in being able to market this devastating period as an accomplishment and this victory to their own people.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You reported from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which in a way, the tensions there are a microcosm of the disputes all over the region.

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Several Palestinian families are facing court ordered evictions to make way for Jewish settler groups, which have claimed their properties, proving in court, saying in court that these lands belong to Jewish groups many, many decades ago. Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim those properties that were lost in the 1948 war. But the law does not allow Palestinians to reclaim their properties that they lost in that same war. And that is at the heart of the tensions in this particular neighborhood.

    Israel throws those court proceedings to cool down tensions. But by then, Hamas had already issued a warning saying that Israel would pay a heavy price if it did not stop its actions in that neighborhood. And days later, the war broke out between Gaza and Israel.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In the middle of all this. There was supposed to be parliamentary elections in Palestine, an upcoming presidential election. What's the status?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    In fact, the Palestinian legislative elections were supposed to be today, Saturday, but the elections have been canceled. The Palestinian president said that he was canceling the elections because Israel did not give assurances the Palestinians would be able to vote in Jerusalem, in areas Israel annexed decades ago. But analysts believe that the real reason that the elections were canceled was because Palestinian President Abbas realized that his rival Hamas, which rules here in the Gaza Strip, might have had the upper hand and might have gained power in those elections and after they were canceled very quickly, we saw that Hamas captured the street and captured the hearts and minds of Palestinians, not only in Gaza, but elsewhere in the West Bank when they started lobbing rockets at Israel and saying that they were defending Jerusalem and we don't see elections on the horizon, but we do see a reemerged Hamas.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NPR's Daniel Estrin joining us from Gaza City. Thanks so much.

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Thank you.

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