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3 Days After A New Governnent Is Installed, Israel Strikes Gaza Targets

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Israel says its fighter jets hit Hamas targets in Gaza earlier this morning. This - these are the first airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip still reeling after an uneasy cease-fire brought an end to an 11-day air war last month. In that violence, at least 250 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes, and at least 13 Israeli residents were killed by rockets that Hamas fired. The latest strikes happened after a march by Israeli nationalists that passed through Palestinian sectors of Jerusalem.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Shouting in non-English language).

FADEL: And all of this just three days into the new Israeli coalition government's term. For more on this, we turn to NPR's Deborah Amos. She's in Jerusalem. Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hello.

FADEL: So what happened today? Is this shaky cease-fire over?

AMOS: Officially, no, but it's very striking. The Israeli military spokesman said this - any scenario is possible, including the resumption of hostilities. And this was after confirming that the airstrikes had happened. Now, a Hamas spokesman also confirmed those strikes. He didn't talk about retaliation. So read that tea leaf and, you know, we may go forward. Part of this may be that the rebuilding of Gaza is still on hold. Neither the Israelis or the Egyptians are willing to let funds into the Gaza Strip. So that may be why, you know, Hamas is holding back. It was a very tough night for Gaza civilians. They are deep into trauma after 11 days of airstrikes. There's still lots of disruption to electricity, to water, still piles of rubble everywhere. Life there for them is very grim.

FADEL: So what prompted this?

AMOS: Well, there was this day, yesterday, of rising tensions. We were out on the streets all day because of this so-called flag march. It's right-wing nationalists. It's been postponed twice. It went ahead yesterday. It was approved by the heads of the new coalition governments. It's this yearly event, and it marks Israel's capture of East Jerusalem more than 50 years ago in 1967. Palestinian leaders see it as a provocation. They called for a day of rage. And Israeli police dispersed Palestinian demonstrators with rubber bullets. They were on horseback. They were using this terrible-smelling water called skunk water. Hamas threatened violence in response, and they floated these incendiary balloons that sparked fires along Israel's southern border, and then came the airstrikes. So what we looked at yesterday was retaliation for retaliation.

FADEL: So the new Israeli coalition government, at this point, is days old. So what might this mean for them?

AMOS: So it was really interesting to watch the ideological difference in this unwieldy coalition that now is the government. The foreign minister, Yair Lapid - he's a centrist - he supported approving the march, but he condemned Israelis chanting death to Arabs. Some of them posted it on social media. The first Palestinian politician in the coalition said the march was a wild provocation and should have been canceled. Now, about those airstrikes, this is a lot about deterrence. And in some ways, it's also deterrence against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has railed against this new coalition that unseated him. He has remained in the official residence of the prime minister, even receiving foreign visitors there. One of them was Nikki Haley, a Republican political leader from Washington.

FADEL: NPR's Deb Amos, thank you so much for your reporting.

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