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Israel And Hamas Agree To Cease-Fire After 11 Days Of Fighting

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire starting tonight. This comes after 11 days of fighting at enormous cost. Palestinians say at least 230 Palestinians have so far been killed, including 65 children. In Israel, authorities say 12 people have been killed, including two children. NPR's Jackie Northam is following the events tonight. She joins us now from Jerusalem.

Hey, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: OK. Give us more detail. What are you hearing about this cease-fire?

NORTHAM: Well, the Israeli government issued a statement saying its security cabinet unanimously voted to accept an Egyptian initiative for a bilateral cease-fire, and it's expected to begin around 2 a.m. local time. A Hamas spokesman, Hazem Al Qassem, told NPR that if Israel stopped its air raids in Gaza, they will talk about a cease-fire. But if they continue, there will be, what they say, an escalation on the ground for sure. And just to note, Hamas has made several conflicting statements over the past few days about a cease-fire. You know, it's early still. There are some details that need clarification, but we do know that there are a lot of serious issues on both sides that still have to get worked out. And frankly, Mary Louise, even if a cease-fire is declared, that doesn't necessarily mean the fighting is going to stop.

KELLY: No. Well, give us a little bit more of a sense of what it is like there on the ground. I know you were down in southern Israel earlier today, an area that has been pummeled with rocket fire. What were you hearing from Israelis?

NORTHAM: You're right. We were in a place called Sderot, which is the closest Israeli town to Gaza. And it's used to being kind of on the front line during conflicts between Hamas and Israel - and no different this time. I spoke with a senior security official in the region, Eyal Hajbi. And he says about 900 rockets have landed in this area. A lot of them have been intercepted. But still, you know, that's about a quarter of all the rockets fired at Israel - and that many people have had to evacuate. But, you know, he said despite that, people in the area want the military to continue to pound Hamas targets so that they're no longer a threat. Here he is speaking through a translator.

EYAL HAJBI: (Through translator) And our message is that we're a steadfast thing in this area no matter what we're going through. And we will continue and live here and build and develop here.

NORTHAM: You know, Hajbi and others in the south may want the fight to continue, but it seems now that's not going to happen.

KELLY: Well, let's look across to the Gaza side of the border, where there are so many challenges, even if we get a cease-fire and even if that does end the fighting.

NORTHAM: Oh, you bet. I mean, Israel pounded Gaza during this conflict, carrying out more than a thousand airstrikes. And as you mentioned earlier, more than 200 people were killed. But, you know, large apartment buildings were demolished. And you've got - the last count was 58,000 Palestinians who have fled their homes. And, you know, buildings are going to have to be, you know, constructed, roads. They're going to need millions of dollars for reconstruction. And, you know, who's going to pay for it may very well be part of the negotiations, along with different types of aid as well.

KELLY: Does either side come out of this stronger?

NORTHAM: You know, Hamas is likely going to say they stood up for Jerusalem and the Palestinians, but, you know, they could face anger amongst their own people about all the destruction there. Israel said it was teaching its enemies a lesson, but it has drawn a lot of international criticism, including from the U.S. Congress, about how much force it used and the high number of civilian casualties. And, you know, that debate will continue.

KELLY: NPR's Jackie Northam reporting tonight from Jerusalem.

Thank you, Jackie.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.