© 2021
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Israel talks of winding down its most intense fighting in Gaza


Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant is in Washington this week. He continues the conversation while Israel fights on two fronts - in Gaza and the border with Lebanon.


Galant will meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken all at a time when his Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at odds with the United States. Hadeel Al-Shalchi joins us this morning from Tel Aviv. Hadeel, welcome.


INSKEEP: OK, what is Galant trying to do in Washington?

AL-SHALCHI: So the Defense Minister is expected to discuss the next phase of the war in Gaza and then the growing tensions in the Lebanese border. Even though the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant for Galant, the U.S. actually sees him as a close partner in Israel's right-wing government. Galant has been vocal in demanding that Netanyahu come up with a day-after plan for Gaza that won't force Israel to be in charge, which is also something the Americans want.

INSKEEP: OK, so Galant has been saying that, but Benjamin Netanyahu is the head of the governing coalition. Where does he stand now?

AL-SHALCHI: Exactly. So Netanyahu gave a long interview to Israeli TV yesterday where he said that the intense part of the fighting in Gaza is winding down and that he's willing to come to a partial deal with Hamas to release some of the hostages, but that would not mean the end of the war completely. And this seems to be contradictory to the deal that the Biden administration is trying to push. That proposal would lead to the end of the war and a return of the remaining hostages. Hamas said in a statement that Netanyahu's TV interview proves that Israel rejects the Biden administration's cease-fire proposal. Netanyahu also said that with the fighting slowing down in Gaza, Israel could pull some of those troops and send them to the Lebanese border because the focus is now shifting to the tensions with Hezbollah.

INSKEEP: Is the fighting actually slowing down in Gaza?

AL-SHALCHI: Well, absolutely not. The war has claimed right now lives of more than 37,000 Palestinians so far, and there were many deadly strikes over the weekend. Officials in Gaza said that 39 Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes on a refugee camp in the north. Israeli forces said that it was targeting a Hamas military site. And last week, at least 25 Palestinians were killed in strikes on a tent encampments in Rafa. The United Nations has said that nowhere is safe in Gaza, that it's been difficult to distribute aid there because of the fighting. And they've also said that public order has collapsed in Gaza. Palestinians are desperate for food and supplies to survive.

INSKEEP: OK, so now we have to complicate this story because things are happening elsewhere in the region. I'll remind people if you picture Israel on a map, Gaza is a territory that's down toward the South. Lebanon is up to the north. There has been violence and exchanges of fire back and forth across that border with Hezbollah on the northern side for months and months. What's happening now?

AL-SHALCHI: The thing on everyone's mind here is a new war starting with Lebanon, especially as there's a lot of pressure by Netanyahu's right-wing partners to launch an offensive in the north. Hezbollah, though, is much stronger than Hamas. The group started to fire at Israel on October 8, and the cross-border fire has been escalating since. And there's a bigger fear that a new front with Hezbollah would trigger a regional war pulling in Iran. American officials visited Lebanon and Israel last week trying to calm things down. But the U.S. has also said that it probably won't be able to help Israel in a broader war with Lebanon the way that it did in Gaza. And yesterday, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff warned that could put American troops here at risk.

INSKEEP: American troops - NPR's Hadeel Al-Shalchi. Thanks very much for the update. Really appreciate it.

AL-SHALCHI: You're welcome. 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.

Hadeel Al-Shalchi
Hadeel al-Shalchi is an editor with Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, Al-Shalchi was a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. In 2012, she joined Reuters as the Libya correspondent where she covered the country post-war and investigated the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens. Al-Shalchi also covered the front lines of Aleppo in 2012. She is fluent in Arabic.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.