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Morning News Brief

May 15, 2018
Originally published on May 15, 2018 6:18 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Gaza, today is what Palestinians call nakba day, when they mark the loss of land to Israel. But today is also a day for burying the dead.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yesterday was the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014 when a war broke out in the region. Throughout the day yesterday, thousands of Palestinians approached a border fence that's guarded by Israel. Israeli troops opened fire, and more than 50 people were killed. Health officials in Gaza said last night that they had counted more than a thousand people with gunshot wounds.

GREENE: Our colleague Steve Inskeep has been reporting from Gaza, and he joins us from there now.

Hi, Steve.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Hey there, David.

GREENE: So wow, all the violence yesterday, the embassy move to Jerusalem - I mean, so much happening. What does Gaza feel like today?

INSKEEP: Well, it is a bit of a quieter day as people recover from the violence of yesterday. But we still do see protesters, not far from where we're sitting here, heading down toward the Israeli border fence. And we hear scattered gunshots, which we presume is the Israeli army, firing back.

People are not done with this protest. And one question is how much farther Hamas, the biggest power here in Gaza, wants to take this protest. But it's come at a tremendous cost. We stopped by the main hospital in Gaza City this morning and visited, and it was extremely crowded with patients, people with gunshot wounds. It's so many of them, so overwhelming the system that we met one young man who had been waiting 24 hours to be seen at all.

GREENE: Wow. Which raises another question - that is, what is driving such intense protests at this moment?

INSKEEP: Well, if you talk with Israeli officials or their supporters, they will say - hey, it's Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and is going after Israel. And that is true enough. But residents here - Palestinians will say terrible conditions, which is also true. Many people here are refugees - classed as refugees. Their parents or grandparents were driven off the land at the creation of Israel. They now live in terrible economic conditions and can't really get out of here very easily because it is walled off and fenced off.

One of the people we've met while reporting here is a young man named Ahmad Abu Artema. He was an instigator of these protests. He went after this idea of marching toward the fence years before it was picked up by Hamas. He's 33. And he says he's only been able to leave a couple of times from Gaza since he was very small. It is so bad that when he finally did get to Cairo, Egypt, the next country over, he felt like he was still in a battle zone. Let's listen to some of that.

AHMAD ABU ARTEMA: What happened with me in Cairo, it was the first time to hear the sound of the civil planes.

INSKEEP: Civilian airplanes?

ABU ARTEMA: Yes. Here in Gaza, usually I hear the planes, F-16...

INSKEEP: The F-16s.

ABU ARTEMA: ...Then bombs.

INSKEEP: He's reminded of Israeli airplanes, a Pavlovian reaction, he said. It's like he's back in a battle zone just when he goes by a civilian airport.

GREENE: Yeah, that's incredible.

Steve, is anyone talking about peace right now?

INSKEEP: People talk about it, but they don't necessarily mean the same thing. When we talk with Hamas officials, it's clear that they still do not recognize Israel as legitimate at all. Israelis say they're willing to talk about peace, but the political situation in Israel has moved more and more away from a willingness to grant Palestinians their own state. So they say they want peace. They don't mean the same thing.

GREENE: Steve Inskeep reporting from Gaza.

Steve, thanks a lot.

INSKEEP: Glad to do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: OK, politics now. Today is a big primary election day. And it could have an impact on the battle for control of Congress.

MARTIN: Yeah, voters in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon are going to choose their candidates for the fall. Nationally, Democrats are really focused on the state of Pennsylvania. The party needs to pick up 23 seats to take over the House, and Pennsylvania alone has five seats Democrats think they can flip.

GREENE: Yeah. And let's bring in NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow who's in the studio.

And Scott, I never mind when the spotlight is on my home state of Pennsylvania. But explain to me why it is at this point, from a political perspective.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: And I'm always happy to talk about Pennsylvania politics, too...

GREENE: You are.

DETROW: ...As we know.

You know, this was already a key battleground state for Democrats because of the focus on the suburbs. They were really eyeing the Philadelphia suburbs to begin with, the seats they could flip, then two things happened to make it way more of a Democratic priority. First is that we've been talking all year about Republican retirements. You had five Republican members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation leaving. And that included several of these suburban seats in Philadelphia. And then, even more, the state supreme court, a couple of months ago, threw out the existing congressional map as unconstitutional. They said it unfairly favored Republicans. The court drew a new map. These new lines really do favor Democrats, make a lot more races competitive for Democrats. And as a result, Democrats very optimistic - so much so that in one of these Philadelphia suburb seats that's empty, you have 10 Democrats running today.

GREENE: For one seat?

DETROW: To be one seat - yup.

GREENE: My goodness.

DETROW: They're feeling the opportunity.

GREENE: That's a crowded field.

So which races should we keep an eye on today - I mean, not just in Pennsylvania but around the country?

DETROW: In Pennsylvania, I'd say the most interesting House primary is the Democratic side of the 7th Congressional District. This is a seat in the Lehigh Valley vacated by moderate Republican Charlie Dent. It's a real Democratic proxy war in a crowded field. You have a conservative candidate, a candidate backed by Bernie Sanders, several others.

More broadly, there's been an interesting trend of House Republicans trying to move up to statewide races not doing too well. Voters don't seem to be impressed with Congress this year. So you've got Lou Barletta running for Senate in Pennsylvania. And then in Idaho, you've got Raul Labrador, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, trying to run for governor. He's running in a field against the lieutenant governor Brad Little and Tommy Ahlquist, who's a former doctor saying he's an outsider like Trump - so watching that. If the outsiders win again - if members of Congress aren't doing well, that could be a trend story.

GREENE: Wow. Proxy war, so many candidates - I mean, it makes your head spin.

DETROW: (Laughter).

GREENE: But for political correspondents, kind of a good day.

Before I let you go, Scott, I do want to ask about the first lady, Melania Trump. She was hospitalized yesterday. What do we know about her situation?

DETROW: Yeah. She underwent a procedure to treat a kidney condition. And the first lady's office says she'll likely remain hospitalized for the duration of the week. This is actually the most serious procedure a first lady has undergone since Nancy Reagan. But President Trump says she's doing well. And the things we've been hearing have been optimistic since the procedure.

GREENE: OK. Well, that's good news. NPR's Scott Detrow.

Thanks so much for talking to us, Scott. We appreciate it as always.

DETROW: Sure thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BON IVER'S "____45_____")

GREENE: OK. In Brussels today, a key test for America's closest allies in Europe and whether they can stand up to President Trump when they think it's necessary.

MARTIN: Yeah, an important meeting happening today - the European Union's chief diplomat is going to host the Iranian foreign minister and his French, British and German counterparts. It is a Hail Mary attempt to try and save the Iran nuclear deal that the U.S. pulled out of last week.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Berlin.

Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: OK. So Rachel says Hail Mary - the odds not great to save this Iran nuclear deal without the U.S. So what are both sides here, the Iranians and the Europeans, hoping to get out of this meeting at best?

NELSON: Well, for the Europeans, it's - I mean, a lot of it has to do with protecting European companies that are doing business in Iran, whether it's through financing, like extending financing and other guarantees for European investment there, or, you know, opening up other channels. And we're talking about a lot of money. I mean, in the case of Germany, it's $3.5 billion last year in business deals with Tehran alone.

GREENE: That's a lot of money to just stop - to just put an end to.

NELSON: And then they also want to get Iran to guarantee that it will continue with what's required of it under the agreement. From the Iranian side, though, they want a little bit more than rhetoric. They really want some kind of commitment because, as you mentioned, it's a Hail Mary pass.

GREENE: Well, I mean, we say Hail Mary, but the Europeans seem to suggest at least that there might be some way of carrying on with this deal without the United States. Is that just talk, or is there a potential path here?

NELSON: Well, that's the key question. I mean, the Europeans were emboldened by China and Russia signaling that they will continue with the deal as long as Iran fulfills its obligations. But the problem is that as much as the Europeans are doing business with Iran, they do a lot more business with the U.S. And there are a lot of things that are on the table right now, I mean, including these penalizing trade tariffs on aluminum and steel, which still have to be decided later this month. So they need to tread carefully unless, you know - because they don't want to draw the ire or even further alienate themselves from the Trump administration as much as they are frustrated by the president's decision here with regard to the Iranian nuclear deal.

GREENE: Anything we're hearing from President Trump or the White House or the administration about the Europeans and their efforts to save this deal?

NELSON: Well, we're hearing some conflicting messages. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that he would like to work with European leaders to come up with a broader agreement to replace the Iranian nuclear deal. But then you had national security adviser John Bolton saying - you know, a much more hard-line approach, if you will - that European firms should be reminded that they will be punished for not adhering to the sanctions.

And the ambassador here in Germany certainly hasn't made things easier to interpret. In tweets, he's talked about Germans - you know, basically trying to tell Germans not to do further business with Iran and saying that companies should stand up here and announce themselves if they want to make deals with the, quote, "mullahs."

GREENE: Countries always like being lectured by...

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: ...Diplomats from other countries.

NELSON: For sure.

GREENE: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin.

We appreciate it, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONO:MASSIVE'S "DO SOME REAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.