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Updates From Israel Following The Cease-Fire Agreement

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The cease-fire between Israel and Gaza is holding. We should remember it's only been about 48 hours. The cease-fire comes after 11 days of rockets and airstrikes that killed 12 people in Israel and at least 250 in Gaza, including more than 60 children. NPR's Jackie Northam joins us now from Jerusalem.

Jackie, thanks for being with us.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Has the quiet held since the cease-fire began on Friday?

NORTHAM: Well, yes, insofar as Israel hasn't carried out any air strikes in Gaza, and Hamas hasn't launched any rockets into Israel. But there were clashes in Jerusalem's Old City between Israeli police and Palestinians yesterday. They were contained. But this cease-fire is fragile, and there's concern something could reignite the fighting. For now, it's calm, and the terms of the cease-fire are still being discussed with the help of Egypt. And in fact, Israelis call it quiet for quiet, meaning if Hamas doesn't fire rockets, Israel won't strike.

SIMON: What are people in Israel with whom you've been speaking saying after a couple of days to reflect on what's happened?

NORTHAM: You know, I spoke with Israelis when I was down in the southern part of the country a couple days ago. And they said then that they wanted the military to inflict as much damage on Hamas as possible to prevent this happening again, so I'm not sure this cease-fire was welcome news to them. Yesterday, the Israeli military held a press conference, and a senior officer said the airstrikes really set back Hamas' military operations and that it'll take a long time for Hamas to rebuild.

He also expressed frustration with how he felt social media had skewed the perception of this conflict. You know, there were a lot of images coming out of Gaza showing the widespread destruction, people injured and killed, and especially children. And he said, you know, that was just one side of the story. But certainly, Scott, those images have been damaging for Israel, and there are questions whether Israel's military action was proportionate to Hamas rocket attacks.

SIMON: And what do we know about the situation in Gaza, where the destruction has been widespread, enormous and visible?

NORTHAM: Well, officials in Gaza say, you know, 1,800 homes and buildings were destroyed and that, you know, water pipelines, sewage systems, roads are all heavily damaged. The area was bombarded - more than 1,000 airstrikes over the course of this 11-day conflict. My colleague Daniel Estrin is in Gaza now, and he's been talking with people, including Ayesha Abu Saltan (ph). And here she is speaking through an interpreter.

AYESHA ABU SALTAN: (Through interpreter) It's much better. I can't just describe how the past minutes, over the past days - every minute I was just thinking that, I'm going to die. I'm going to be a martyr (ph).

NORTHAM: You know, she also told Daniel that she hopes the cease-fire negotiations go well.

SIMON: We've seen, well, I'm afraid, several of these conflicts between Hamas and Israel over the years. There's a cease-fire. Fighting flares up again. Is there any sense that there's the potential for something different to happen this time?

NORTHAM: You know, at this point, when the cease-fire is still new and negotiations are going on, I'm not certain there's a lot of optimism that anything will change in the bigger picture. Scott, there are really serious issues that go back decades that have to be addressed and resolved. President Biden has indicated the U.S. will be involved to try to keep things on track, and he's sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken into this area. And he's due to arrive in the next few days for talks. But, you know, the Israeli military officer that I mentioned earlier - he said the big question now is, how long until the next operation like this? And, you know, that's certainly something many people here are asking.

SIMON: NPR's Jackie Northam in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.