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Gaza Militants Fire Rockets Into Israel; Israeli PM Netanyahu Promises 'Massive Strikes'


We begin this morning in the Middle East, where there is a second day of conflict. Militants in the Gaza Strip have fired another huge barrage of rockets at Israel. In response, the Israeli Air Force's launched airstrikes inside Gaza at militant targets. There were reports of casualties on both sides. Reporter Naomi Zeveloff joins us now from Tel Aviv. Thank you so much for joining us.

NAOMI ZEVELOFF: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Naomi, what's been happening?

ZEVELOFF: This morning, I spoke with an Israeli army spokesman this morning who was briefing journalists to say that Gaza militants had launched hundreds of rockets at Israel and that Israel responded by striking hundreds of military targets. The spokesman also told me that the Army was planning to deploy an armored brigade to be ready for an offensive mission if needed. And there have been casualties on both sides. The military spokesman said that a rocket from Gaza killed one Israeli man.

And I also just got off the phone with the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where I was told that two other Israeli civilians just died from rocket fire from Gaza. And the Gaza Ministry of Health is also reporting that Israeli airstrikes have killed multiple people. Two of those people were claimed as militants by a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Among the victims were a pregnant woman and a 14-month-old baby in Gaza. But there are conflicting accounts over what happened to them. Gaza health officials say an Israeli airstrike killed them. But the Israeli military spokesman talked to said that rocket fire by Palestinians that landed inside the Gaza Strip is what killed them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is behind this latest flare-up?

ZEVELOFF: Well, for more than a year there have been clashes and protests at the site of the Gaza fence. Palestinians in Gaza have launched what's called the March of Return, which is meant to highlight the Palestinian call to return to their historic homelands, which are now a part of Israel.

And many times over the past year, the situation at the fence has escalated into rockets and airstrikes. But this specific escalation the army in Israel pins on an event on Friday, when militants shot and injured two soldiers. And Israel retaliated with an airstrike that killed two militants. And then rockets were shot from Gaza, and here we are today.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, what do we know about Israel's plans? Could we see this escalate?

ZEVELOFF: Well, as I said, Israel is certainly prepared to possibly deploy that armored brigade for an offensive mission. And, you know, this - Israeli strikes are continuing, and rockets are also continuing right now. And this is a - quite an escalation between the two sides and really a serious one since the 2014 war. That was a war that lasted many weeks. Dozens of Israeli soldiers and several Israeli civilians died. And on the Palestinian side, more than 2,000 people died, including many civilians and also militants.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: With the stakes so high, are there negotiations for a cease-fire, do you know? And can you tell us about those and where they stand?

ZEVELOFF: Well, before this current outbreak of violence, Egypt was mediating between the two sides to prevent such hostilities from returning. And those negotiations were meant to exchange calm on the border for Israel lifting certain restrictions in the Gaza Strip, basically to make life more bearable for people in Gaza. And this conflict certainly puts those negotiations at serious risk.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's reporter Naomi Zeveloff in Tel Aviv. Naomi, thank you so much.

ZEVELOFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.