4:47am

Fri November 16, 2012
Middle East

Egypt Tries To Broker Cease-Fire In Gaza Strip

Originally published on Mon November 19, 2012 2:09 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Israel has called up its military reservists, bolstering its army in preparation for the possibility of invading Gaza. If the order was given, it would add to Israel's air campaign against Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas; and which has been the source of rocket fire against Israel - deadly rocket fire, in some cases. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Gaza now, that little strip of land on the coast between Israel and Egypt. He's in Gaza City.

And Anthony, I understand the prime minister of Egypt has come to Gaza. What is he doing?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Yes. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil became the first Egyptian prime minister to visit Gaza, when he came across the southern border this morning. His host here, is his Hamas counterpart, Ismail Haniyeh. The two of them went for meetings at the cabinet, where Qandil tried to find out what the Palestinians need, and how the Egyptians can help them.

And then the two went to Gaza's main hospital, to visit people who were injured in the bombing attacks by Israel. When they got there, something unexpected happened. They saw two children - one dead, and one injured - who were just being brought in after being hit in Israeli bombing attacks. And Qandil was visibly distraught by what he saw. And he said that the whole world must bear responsibility for intervening, and stopping the escalation.

INSKEEP: Well, let's try to understand what's happening here, Anthony, because it may suggest a changing Middle East. The previous ruler of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, was no fan of Hamas. It sounds like the new government of Egypt is more sympathetic to Hamas, and its confrontation with Israel here.

KUHN: Well, there's no question that it needs to appear more supportive of the Palestinians. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a day of rage; and there may be protests today in Tahrir Square, in Cairo. The Palestinians would certainly like to see more support from Egypt. So would Hamas. So would the Muslim Brotherhood.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask what practical role Egypt can play - because we have a situation, here, where the United States has staunchly stood behind Israel. President Obama's administration has indicated that this is Hamas' problem; that Hamas was firing rockets into Israel, and Hamas has to stop in order for the fighting to stop. Is Egypt, in any way, attempting to help bring about a cease-fire?

KUHN: Yes. Well, it's been reported that Egyptian intelligence did try to broker a cease-fire, but it didn't hold. And Hamas accuses Israel of not committing to the cease-fire. So far, we're at a stage where neither side says they're willing to de-escalate. They say they're both ready to escalate, if necessary.

INSKEEP: Anthony, do people there expect to see Israeli troops in Gaza soon?

KUHN: I think they're prepared for it. And the Hamas leadership has tried to prepare the population, psychologically, for this possibility. Of course, a ground operation would be very costly, in terms of human life, and neither side wants to see it happen. At the same time, as the conflict escalates, it gets harder and harder for both sides to show, to their populations, that they have scored a victory. The bar is raised higher and higher, for scoring political points.

INSKEEP: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Gaza City. Anthony, thanks.

KUHN: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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