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In Cairo, Efforts To Reach Mideast Cease-Fire


Let's turn now to the urgent diplomatic efforts underway. Secretary of State Clinton is now in Cairo, meeting with Egyptian leaders in efforts to reach a ceasefire. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us from Cairo to discuss the latest.

Good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So what do you know about what's happening on the diplomatic front today there in Cairo?

FADEL: Well, at this point, actually, not much. Hillary Clinton arrived here earlier in the afternoon, but we still haven't heard anything from those meetings. They seem to be continuing. We're expecting a statement at some point from her and from the president of Egypt, who have been major players in the media negotiations, the only ones in touch with the Palestinian side - Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others - and the ones that are relaying their message and their side of this idea that there will be a truce. But it's really unclear if it's actually going to happen.

MONTAGNE: Now, as we mentioned earlier, as you heard Anthony say, a bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv today, injuring at least 10 people. Hamas is not taking credit for the bombing, but it has called the attack a natural response to the Palestinians wounded in Gaza. Still, could this attack on an Israeli bus be game-changer in these efforts to negotiate some sort of truce?

FADEL: Yes, it could be a game-changer. I mean, not only a thousand people were wounded in Gaza, but more than 130 killed in these really punishing airstrike campaigns in land and sea campaigns against the Gaza Strip. And I think that the bomb on the bus - more than 10 people injured - could be something that hardens the Israeli line. And a lot of public sentiments are shifting in Israel, and people are really concerned about not only the rockets, but now possible bombs on vehicles in Israel, and more behind the idea of a ground invasion. This is a terrifying idea for Palestinians living inside the Gaza Strip under siege.

MONTAGNE: Beyond that Tel Aviv bus bombing, what are the other likely sticking points on each side?

FADEL: Well, from what we're hearing, I mean, basically, both sides have preconditions for the idea of a truce to happen. Hamas is saying: You have to lift the Gaza blockade immediately - which basically doesn't allow a lot of aid and building materials and other things into the Gaza Strip - and also stop assassinating our leaders. Israel is saying: You have to stop the rockets into our land.

One of the main sticking points that we're hearing, at least from the Hamas side, the Hamas side is saying Israel doesn't want to agree to the lifting of the blockade for the troops. This is a major sticking point.

MONTAGNE: And, Leila, where does Secretary of State Clinton go from here?

FADEL: Well, this is her last stop on what has been a sort of emergency, two-day tour where she spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. She spoke to Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian - in the West Bank. But now she comes to Egypt. Egypt are the major regional mediators. They're the - as I said, the only ones talking to both Hamas and the also Israeli officials. They have a long history of communication between their security apparatuses. This also is actually one of the major problems, analysts say, that there is a missing element at the table. Hamas has no direct contact with the United States, nor with Israel.

MONTAGNE: Leila, thanks very much.

FADEL: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Leila Fadel, speaking to us from Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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