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The latest on the Israel-Hamas ceasefire proposal and attacks on Rafah


Today we start in Gaza, where it has been a day of whiplash. This morning Israel's military warned Palestinians to evacuate certain parts of Rafah. Israel has long threatened an offensive against Hamas in that city, which is full of refugees. Hours later, Hamas agreed to a cease-fire proposal brokered by Egypt and Qatar. However, Israel's cabinet has said it will not halt its attacks on Rafah. NPR Michele Kelemen is covering this from Tel Aviv. Hi, Michele.


SHAPIRO: There have been so many developments in quick succession today. Where do things stand right now?

KELEMEN: Yeah. You know, I mean, for weeks, the U.S. has been saying that it's Hamas that's standing in the way of a cease-fire. And now Hamas says it has agreed to a proposal, and the ball is now in Israel's court for a deal that would see Israel hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and, of course, a long cease-fire. Here in Tel Aviv tonight, hostage families and their supporters are out protesting and urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the latest offer and get their loved ones home, The Israelis say they're sending a delegation to Cairo to follow up on this, but they're also continuing to step up their military campaign in Rafah. Netanyahu says he's determined to defeat the Hamas battalions there. The U.S. says a hostage deal is the best option for everyone, and CIA director Bill Burns is continuing to work on that.

SHAPIRO: Besides those Hamas battalions, there are more than 1 million Palestinians sheltering in Rafah, so what is going on there today?

KELEMEN: Yeah. Well, there was heavy bombardment tonight and earlier, just a lot of chaos after Israel made phone calls and sent text messages, dropping flyers and warning Palestinians to move. NPR producer Anas Baba brought us some of the scenes from there earlier today. Let's take a listen.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: We can see that all over the city of Rafah at the moment is being totally a mess - cars everywhere, shouting everywhere. People are trying to collect whatever they can. But we can see that the most important thing that they collect at the moment is food, canned food, mattresses and blankets.

KELEMEN: Tasneem Khaled Ijtah tells him that she's packed up everything she could. Life is very tiring, she says, and she's afraid.

TASNEEM KHALED IJTAH: (Speaking Arabic).

KELEMEN: "There's fear and dread. We don't know where to go, and there's no transportation. I'm not just afraid," she says. "I'm terrified." Israeli officials called it a temporary evacuation limited in scope. They dropped the leaflets a day after Palestinian militants fired a barrage of rockets at the Kerem Shalom crossing, killing four Israel soldiers. The crossing, a key aid lifeline, was closed for the day. Scott Anderson, who's based in Rafah with the UN agency UNRWA, is hoping those crossings will reopen soon, and he's telling Palestinians that the UN will stay with them.

SCOTT ANDERSON: We're not evacuating. We're not leaving. We will be here. We will take care of people, the innocent civilians, wherever they are, be it here, the humanitarian zone. But we're not evacuating, and we're not leaving.

KELEMEN: Some Palestinians are on the move.

MANSOUR JABARI: (Non-English language spoken).

KELEMEN: An elderly man named Mansour Jabari is pushing his grandson in a wheelchair. He says he saw a leaflet telling him to move to Al-Mawasi. So that's where he's heading, looking for safety. The aid group Mercy Corps says the conditions there are beyond tragic and defy description, with Palestinians crowded in tents. Producer Anas Baba was out speaking to Palestinians after a rainstorm in Rafah.

BABA: It's just like a sign that Rafah atmosphere is crying about their own citizen here. From Rafah city, this is Anas Baba for NPR.

KELEMEN: And I'm Michele Kelemen in Tel Aviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.