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Few Signs Of Break In Mideast Flare-Up



Israel is now warning of a possible significant expansion of its operation aimed at Palestinian militants in Gaza. Earlier today, an Israeli air strike on a suspected Hamas target killed at least 10 people, and Hamas fired dozens of missiles into Israel. We'll get to our cover story on legacy and the Obama White House in a few moments, but first to the Middle East and our reporter in Cairo, Leila Fadel.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: The Israeli bombardment of Gaza continued today by sea and air. According to local sources, one strike left a family of at least 10 - mostly women and children - dead. Another struck a media building and injured six journalists, raising concerns that journalists in Hamas-run area are now targets.

There were no signs of the violence ending as Israel implied that a ground invasion was near and Hamas militants continued to fire rockets into Israel. The invasion, Israel says, would be aimed at stopping those rockets coming from the besieged Gaza Strip.

Here in Cairo, a diplomatic flurry is churning to broker a cease-fire before violence escalates further. Egyptian officials appear to be attempting to mediate between Hamas and Israeli officials.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED MORSI: (Through translator) And up till now, there are indicators that there is a possibility for a cease-fire by both parties soon. Up till now, we did not have exact guarantees, but what I would like to point out and to affirm is that in this matter, war, aggression and the blockade that has been imposed upon Gaza, all of this can achieve neither peace nor stability for the peoples of the region.

FADEL: Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi made the statement in a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan this weekend. Today, Erdogan again called for an immediate cease-fire on both sides and called for talks to begin to lift the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The Egyptian foreign ministry said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is expected in Cairo tomorrow to meet with Morsi.

Observers say Morsi has shown unprecedented support for Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the crisis began. He quickly condemned the bombardments and sent his prime minister to visit the Gaza Strip on Friday in a show of solidarity.

He also had Egypt's representative to the U.N. call for the convening of the Security Council and asked for an emergency meeting of the Arab League. The chief of the Arab League and a group of Arab foreign ministers plan to head to Gaza Tuesday to show support. Issandr el Amrani is an expert on Egyptian politics and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

ISSANDR EL AMRANI: Well, we've seen a quicker public reaction. Obviously, this president comes from a political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, for which the Palestinian cause is central and has close affinity, close ties with Hamas.

FADEL: He says Morsi is feeling pressure to do something strong to support the Palestinians not only from the majority of Egyptians but from his own organization. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Morsi is in a difficult position. He has been criticized for not fully opening the border crossing with Gaza.

AMRANI: The stakes for the Morsi administration, which is stuck between its commitment to the Palestinian cause, its belief, I think, and its sincere belief in supporting Hamas. And on the other hand, the fact that Egypt's hands are tied.

FADEL: President Obama said today that Israel has the right to defend itself but added that it would be preferable to avoid a ground invasion. British Foreign Secretary William Hague had tougher words, warning that Israel risks losing its international support and sympathy if it invades. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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