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A Week In, Rockets Still Flying In Gaza

ALEX COHEN, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen. In a few minutes, Americans are depressed about the economy, but perhaps that's part of the problem. Our pessimism is only making things worse. Find out why in a moment. But first, today at the White House, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Hamas of holding the people of Gaza hostage in its conflict with Israel. She added that the United States was working with its partners to try to bring about a sustainable ceasefire. So far, no concrete progress has been made. With us now is NPR's Mike Shuster. He joins us from Jerusalem. And Mike, are Hamas and Israel still exchanging rocket attacks today?

MIKE SHUSTER: They are. This is, in fact, the seventh day of the current conflict. So, we're now a week into the conflict. There have been intense airstrikes up 'til now, and that's lessened a bit today. There have been about 30 Israeli airstrikes mostly against weapons-related targets, places where the Israelis believed that Hamas' storing weapons or hiding weapons. There has also been a lower level of Palestinian rocket attacks, but still, two rockets that were launched from Gaza did hit an apartment building in Ashkelon, which is an Israeli town a few miles in north up the coast, north of Gaza. And two people were injured, but no further fatalities on the Israeli side.

COHEN: There have been reports about protests throughout the Arab world against Israel. What have you been hearing there?

SHUSTER: Well, in fact, because today was a day of prayer in the Muslim world and in the Arab world, there were protests after Friday prayers in Cairo, in Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria. Police in Cairo clashed with some of the protesters, because some of the protesters were from an Islamic group that has ideological ties to Hamas. Outside the Arab world, there were demonstrations also in Tehran, Iran, and in Istanbul in Turkey, and they were protests here in the West Bank among Palestinians. And there was one in particular in Ramallah, but some fistfights broke out between Palestinians, some of whom are supporters of Hamas and some of whom are supporters of Fatah, the more secular group that was ousted from Gaza by Hamas.

COHEN: Mike, what's the latest on the humanitarian situation in Gaza?

SHUSTER: I've just come from a briefing by a number of United Nations agencies that are active in Gaza, and the situation they describe is truly horrible. There's a food crisis with shortages of flour, rice, sugar, milk, canned goods, meat. What's getting into Gaza is not enough, the U.N. officials say, to sustain the population. There are power shortages that only - the one sole power plant in Gaza is not functioning. There's a water shortage for most of Gaza. Running water comes only five to seven days, according to the U.N. officials, and the sewage system is terrible; 10 million gallons or so of raw sewage are pouring into the sea everyday from Gaza. The system is overwhelmed by the some 2,000 injuries that have been brought to the hospitals over the course of the last week. So, the situation sounds quite dire.

COHEN: There are reports that the Hamas rockets might be able to hit a nuclear plant in the Israeli desert. How much of a concern is that?

SHUSTER: Well, first of all, this is a rumor, and it's not confirmed. There have been reports, unconfirmed reports, that Hamas has acquired missiles that might reach a town called Dimona in the Negev Desert. But in order to do that, these missiles would have to fly another 20 miles past what is known of their outer range for now. We know that there were some missiles that hit the town of Be'er Sheva a couple of days ago, which is about 24 miles from Gaza. And if they were to reach this town Dimona, they would have to fly another 20 miles or so. So, it's not clear that, in fact, Hamas has these - such weapons, but if they did, that would put Israel's sole nuclear reactor within their range, and that's where Israel has been - is believed to have been making nuclear weapons since the 1960s.

COHEN: NPR's Mike Shuster, speaking to us from Jerusalem. Thank you, Mike.

SHUSTER: You're welcome.

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COHEN: Coming up later on in the program, feeling nervous about the economy? Maybe you've gotten rid of your cable TV, or you've cutback on your pricy shoe habit, even though you haven't lost your job yet; you haven't even taken a pay cut. Well, it turns out you might be part of what's causing this global financial meltdown. We'll look into the psychology of spending and thinking good thoughts with NPR's Planet Money and correspondent David Kestenbaum. That's coming up later in the program.

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COHEN: Stay with us on Day to Day from NPR News. 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.

Alex Cohen is the reporter for NPR's fastest-growing daily news program, Day to Day where she has covered everything from homicides in New Orleans to the controversies swirling around the frosty dessert known as Pinkberry.
Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.