Airstrikes Hit Media Buildings In Gaza; Diplomatic Efforts Mount
Gaza's media is the latest target of Israeli airstrikes as diplomatic pressure is urging both sides to lay down their arms in the recent surge of violence.
At least one rocket was fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv on Sunday, but was thwarted by Israeli missile defense. Israel continued airstrikes overnight as well, hitting two media buildings that house both domestic and foreign news agencies.
Several journalists were injured in the strikes. NPR's Anthony Kuhn tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin "the Palestinian journalists who were there see themselves as patriots who were contributing to the defense of their country through their reporting."
"The Israeli military considers these journalists legitimate targets," Kuhn adds. While he was interviewing journalists on site, in fact, militants fired off a rocket right next to the media building.
Salama Marouf of the Hamas media office condemned the attack, the The New York Times reports, calling it "an 'immoral massacre against the media' and calling the attack a 'confession' by Israel 'that it has lost the media battle.'"
On Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces warned, "Advice to reporters in #Gaza, just like any person in Gaza: For your own safety, stay away from #Hamas positions and operatives."
In Israel, air raid sirens warned of another rocket attack just north of the Gaza border early this morning, NPR's Sheera Frenkel reports for Weekend Edition:
"Some people run to take cover, but most stand pointing towards the sky, as an interceptor missile from Israel's Iron Dome system strikes the Palestinian rockets in mid-air."
Negotiations by diplomats in the region are under way. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said a cease-fire mediated by Egypt, Turkey and Qatar is in the works, Kuhn reports, but there isn't an agreement yet. Hamas also met with Egyptian intelligence yesterday.
"Apparently they outlined conditions under which they would stop fighting, such as Israel ceasing to assassinate their top leaders," Kuhn says.
The French foreign minister is in Israel today and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is expected Monday. On Tuesday, a delegation from the Arab League intends to visit Gaza in a show of solidarity.
Politically, Israel has support from European countries, the UN and the U.S., Kuhn says, which have all said the burden of de-escalating the fight is on Hamas.
President Obama reiterated U.S. support for "Israel's right to defend itself," on Sunday.
Amos Harel, defense analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, tells Frenkel it will become clearer over the next couple days whether Israel will expand its operation into a ground invasion. Frenkel reports:
"[Harel] says that Iron Dome is playing a major role in preventing civilian casualties on the Israeli side, and is allowing Israeli politicians wiggle room to negotiate a potential cease-fire agreement with Hamas. He says neither side wants to continue fighting."
Still, Israel is continuing preparations for a ground invasion. Reuters reports that in a cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation."