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Cease-fire talks resume in Cairo, while there are more funerals in Rafah


Today, we are learning how far the United States may go to push back on Israel's conduct in its war in Gaza. NPR has confirmed that the U.S. paused a shipment of thousands of bombs to Israel.


President Biden's administration has been voicing concern about Israeli plans to strike the city of Rafah. That's a city where more than a million Palestinians have fled from other devastated parts of Gaza. The administration faces a self-imposed deadline of today to release a legal review of the war. The U.S. has to determine if it considers Israel's conduct to be legal.

FADEL: Joining us now from Tel Aviv is NPR's Lauren Frayer. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So let's start with this news that Washington is pausing a shipment of U.S. bombs headed for Israel over its concern that they would be used in Rafah. What do we know about this, and how is it being received among Israeli leadership?

FRAYER: We knew this was a shipment of more than 3,000 large bombs. The U.S. paused this delivery last week, according to a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity. Israel, though, is downplaying this. Its chief military spokesperson said today that any disagreements between Israel and the U.S. will be resolved behind closed doors, and he says coordination between them is at a historic high. CIA director Bill Burns is said to be in Israel today for talks.

The Biden administration, though, is also doing a legal review of whether Israel's conduct in the Gaza war complies with both U.S. and international law, and it's worth noting this is something that other countries are doing, too, particularly countries that export weapons to Israel, like the U.S, amid fears that those weapons could be used in alleged war crimes. Israel, of course, vehemently denies those allegations and points out that it was Hamas that started this war.

FADEL: Now, let's get to what's happening in Rafah. For weeks, we've been hearing about the worsening humanitarian situation there, the airstrikes. What's the situation this morning?

FRAYER: People in Rafah today have one eye skyward at Israeli war planes and the other on Israel tanks that have moved in, flying Israeli flags, controlling the border crossing now with Egypt, and they are burying their dead today. Our Gaza producer, Anas Baba, talked to this woman, named Amal al-Dirby. She's a older woman in a Muslim headscarf, shuffling between tents for people whose homes have been destroyed.

AMAL AL-DIRBY: (Speaking non-English language).

FRAYER: And you can hear her there, rattling off the names of nine of her relatives killed...


FRAYER: ...In an Israeli airstrike. She's sort of sighing with grief after she says each person's name. These have been some bewildering days for her and others in Rafah. First, Israel told people to flee that area. People started packing their bags. Some were literally on the move. When celebrations erupted Monday night after Hamas said it had accepted this cease-fire proposal, some people turned back, assuming the Israeli attacks would stop, and then they were hit by Israeli airstrikes.

FADEL: A terrifying whirlwind for civilians. And one of the biggest criticisms Israel's been facing from the international community is the civilian death toll of Palestinians in this war. Have the Israelis said exactly what they're targeting in Rafah with these airstrikes?

FRAYER: They say they're targeting buildings and tunnels used by Hamas - not targeting civilians -but the Gaza Health Ministry says half of those killed in the past 24 hours have been women and children killed in their residences. Now, Israel believes the last four remaining Hamas battalions have embedded themselves among displaced people in Rafah, and Israel says it's trying to choke off their supply lines. Those tanks controlling the border around Egypt - here's what the Israeli government spokesman, Avi Hyman, said about those.


AVI HYMAN: Underneath that large border infrastructure are cross-border, underground smuggling tunnels sustaining and providing a lifeline to Hamas.

FRAYER: Egypt and the United Nations have slammed Israel for taking control of this area. The U.N. says Israel has obligations under international law to allow humanitarian aid through there. The U.S., though, however, appears to have convinced Israel to reopen another border crossing this morning, the Kerem Shalom crossing, which Israel had closed a few days go amid Hamas rocket fire.

FADEL: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer in Tel Aviv. Thank you, Lauren.

FRAYER: You're welcome. 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.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.