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Egypt's Prime Minister Calls For Ceasefire In Gaza


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


I'm Melissa Block.

And we turn this hour to the explosion of violence this week between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli airstrikes have been pounding targets in the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops are massing on the Gaza border. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to launch rockets into Israel, including, for the first time, a rocket that targeted Jerusalem today.

With that as the backdrop, Egypt's prime minister paid a visit to the embattled Gaza Strip. He spoke out in support of Palestinians and offered to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but neither side appears willing to lay down arms just yet.

We begin our coverage with NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Gaza City.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Prime Minister Hesham Kandil told his hosts that Palestine was the beating heart of the Muslim and Arab world, and that revolutionary Egypt, as he put it, would do everything it could to broker a truce and halt Israel's military campaign against Gaza. Kandil paused and appeared to fight back tears as he spoke of his visit to Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital, where he saw the body of a young child, killed in an Israeli attack, brought into the hospital.

PRIME MINISTER HESHAM KANDIL: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: What I've seen today in Gaza in the hospital, the martyred child whose blood, he said haltingly. My brothers, we cannot remain silent about this tragedy. His Hamas counterpart, Ismail Haniya(ph), held up Kandil's hand to show the crowd that the blood of the young child stained both Egyptian and Palestinian hands. In other words, Egyptians feel Palestinians' pain.

Even as Kandil was offering to help arrange a truce, Palestinian rockets continued to arc skyward, and for most of the day, Israeli warplanes continued their bombing runs.

Also hosting Kandil was Basim Naim(ph), a Hamas official and former health minister. He applauded Kandil's visit as a sign that unlike during Israel's last major offensive against Gaza more than three years ago, the Arab Spring has now emboldened Egypt and other Arab countries to help Palestinians stand up to Israel.

BASIM NAIM: This is a major political and diplomatic support for the people here in the Gaza Strip. And I think it is also a message to the Israelis that this time, it's completely different from the last one when they were able to attack Gaza Strip and the silence of many Arab countries in the region.

KUHN: But Naim, who is a former doctor at al-Shifa, also stresses that a full-blown war in Gaza would lead to a humanitarian crisis. He says Gaza's biggest hospital is operating at maximum capacity and is desperately short of basic supplies.

NAIM: For example, suture materials. I'm talking about anesthesia drugs for wounded people. You can go to the emergency room now with any kind of pain. You will not find a painkiller.

KUHN: An ambulance pulls up in front of al-Shifa and medics rush the latest victim of an Israeli air raid into the emergency room on a gurney.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: In three days of fighting, there have been around two dozen Palestinians killed. Israel's government says that it's trying to minimize civilian casualties. But upstairs at the hospital, Yousef Kamel Dirada(ph) says he doesn't believe this. He says his 21-year-old son was sitting outside the family's grocery store this week when an Israeli rocket hit, hurling him through the store's glass door and peppering his body with shrapnel. He says the doctors here are unable to remove all the shrapnel or reconstruct his son's badly damaged nose.

YOUSEF KAMEL DIRADA: (Through translator) This is the best hospital in the Gaza Strip, and this is all its doctors can do. I'm not blaming them.

KUHN: He says he can't afford to take his son overseas for medical treatment, and he's worried about his son's state of mind.

DIRADA: (Through translator) I sense that he feels that he has lost something. How will he be able to look at himself in the mirror, comparing how he was then and how he is now?

KUHN: Dirada criticizes Israel's attacks as indiscriminate. If not, he asks, why were they bombing an empty alleyway in a residential neighborhood? Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Gaza City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.