Hamas and the IDF continued to fire across the Gaza border as the second week of deadly violence continues in the region. It comes as France, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar attempt to negotiate ceasefire talks. CBS News foreign correspondent Imtiaz Tyab joins CBSN from southern Israel with the latest developments.
– So, for more on all of this, let’s turn to CBS News foreign correspondent Imtiaz Tyab. He’s now in … Imtiaz, you’re in southern Israel. So give us the latest news on the ground out there today, do we need more airstrikes and rocket attacks?
IMTIAZ TYAB: Anne-Marie, Vlad, nice to talk to you. Yes, these airstrikes inside Gaza continued overnight and all morning. And here in Be’er Sheva, there has been a series of rocket attacks. In fact, we just had to hit this shelter behind me – I don’t know if you can see it – after a number of rockets were fired at this town and town – which is sort of in the Negev. It is east of the Gaza Strip, so not very far. And while we were in that shelter behind me, we could hear a loud noise after hit after hit as Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted these rockets.
And even though we were in that shelter, of course we could see people crying, people comforting each other. It is certainly very terrifying for the people who live here. Of course, in Gaza the situation is very different. There is no proportionality to what people are going through there. There are no shelters in Gaza. There is nowhere to hide, and yet the airstrikes continue, the bombing continues, and so does the devastation. Anne-Marie, Vlad.
– Imtiaz, we learned that the Israeli forces tried and failed to kill Hamas’ chief military commander. Give us some details on that. It’s remarkable that this is something they’ve been trying to do for quite some time, I guess.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Yes. For almost 20 years, they tried to kill Mohammed Dhaif, who is a senior commander of the Qassam Brigades. And the Qassam Brigades are essentially the armed faction of Hamas. Hamas will say that they are just the government. They are just a leader. Of course, it is very different. Much of the world considers Hamas a terrorist organization. But Hamas will tell you that we run the governments, we run the ministry. Anyway, the Qassam Brigades are their armed wing, and Mohamed Dhaif is its most tippy summit. And Israel has been trying to kill him for many, many years. Have made several attempts.
In fact, if you read his bio – for lack of a better phrase – he lost two legs, he lost an arm and an eye, but he did not lose his life and Israel continues to target him. We understand that his house was destroyed in the Khan Yunis neighborhood of the Gaza Strip, which is just in the far north of the Gaza Strip. So Israel is very determined to get a scalp – for lack of a better phrase – and some believe that is why these fights continue. That at this point Israel doesn’t have a big goal that they can say, we have this guy, we are good. Again, there is great concern that although there are attempts to secure a ceasefire, until they get someone big, the fighting could continue.
– Imtiaz, you mentioned the proportionality and the reality of this conflict is that many more Palestinians are dying than Israelis and there are many more children who are Palestinian children who are dying. Israel says Hamas uses human shields, and that is why there are so many innocent people killed in these airstrikes in Gaza. But what is Israel doing to prevent more civilian deaths?
IMTIAZ TYAB: Yeah, look, Israel says their strikes are surgical, but all we have to do is watch our TV screens and know it’s not surgical. They are [INAUDIBLE] entire buildings, flattening of neighborhoods. There is nothing surgical about the kind of devastation. But Israel does, and it has done it in a number of its strikes, especially in populated areas, is that it will call people, or text people, or even text them saying that they’re going to bomb them, and usually giving them a few minutes to get out of where they are. Not much time to leave your house, have all your belongings, all your memories, and find a place to go before this building is reduced to rubble.
But you are right, the death toll in the Gaza Strip is very high. He’s heading towards 250. A lot of them, of course, are children. And this is really the sad tragedy of what is happening in Gaza, it is too often innocent people. And it’s interesting that we talked to the kids on both sides. We spoke to a 10 year old girl inside Gaza, who tells us that she has hopes and dreams and doesn’t think she can have any of those hopes and dreams because of the state of Gaza. But we also spoke to a 10 year old girl here in Israel, and she says all she wants to see is peace. She lives very, very close to Gaza, in a community close to southern Israel. And I asked her, if you could meet this girl in Gaza, who says she has no hope, who fears for her future, what would you say to her, what would you do. And she said I hugged her. Anne-Marie, Vlad.
– Imtiaz, what is the latest news on the ceasefire talks. We know that countries like Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and France are now trying to lead these efforts. And we talked about that earlier this week, Imtiaz, as to the end goal. I mean, even if there is a ceasefire, describe to our viewers what life will be like for the people who remain in Gaza, who as we all know are stranded. They cannot use the sea. The sea is blocked and they obviously cannot enter Israel or Egypt.
Because, you know, the only problem is that the rest of the world is starting to take a closer look at what’s going on there, which could be embarrassing for the State of Israel. And in the end, they will certainly not engender any goodwill on the part of the people of Gaza or the people of the West Bank. And the Israelis certainly have to think about it, because there is now a language, especially in Washington DC and other countries, that tries to label Israel as an apartheid state. And so it must be worrying for them. They don’t want to be seen like that, because it could create problems in the future for this democracy.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Yes. You are absolutely right. And you know, when you look at groups like Human Rights’s Watch, a United States-based human rights organization, just this year before this conflict, released a very long and detailed report in which it accused or called Israel. apartheid state. B’Tselem, one of the best-known human rights organizations in Israel, where the Israelis work, also released a report calling Israel an apartheid state. It comes from the outside and it comes from the inside.
Now, for the Israeli government, they are, of course, concerned about this. They are very active against what is called the BDS movement, which is essentially a divestment and sanctions initiative and a boycott initiative against Israel. They are working very hard to prevent any of these initiatives from happening. And so, they’re very, very aware of how they’re viewed in the world with, of course, their allies, but indeed around the world. And so yes, it is a concern and it is still a concern. And anything Israel can do to repel any criticism of its actions will certainly be met with great force.
But you know, Vlad, you covered this story, I covered this story, and one thing Israel often deals with is domestic politics, domestic politics. And that really defines a lot of what the world sees and the world can see Israel in so many ways, but the reasons behind what a lot of Israel does is because of these domestic policies. And very quickly, we have to recognize the fact that Israel is in a political crisis. For two years, they have had four successive elections, and no conclusive results.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the head of this country for a very long time, is only the interim prime minister. Another political leader or another was asked to try to form a government. Now, whether or not it gets there in the next few weeks, only time will tell. But the reality is you have this conflict, you have the West Bank. You have this whole problem inside Israel with the inter-communal fighting. You have East Jerusalem. There are so many problems and, of course, all this pressure to get a ceasefire from Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, the United States, the United Nations, the European Union. Israel faces so much on so many fronts, and yet it often always boils down to its own national considerations.
And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a fighter. He’s a survivor. And many see him as using this conflict, using this tension, to try to bolster his credentials as Mr. Security, Mr. Tough, who is going to keep Israel safe. And some fear that even if we understand that Hamas wants a ceasefire, that it may refuse one because it might be in its own political interest. Anne-Marie, Vlad.
– Imtiaz Tyab reports from the field for us with some very revealing details. Imtiaz, thank you very much.