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Diplomat trying to end Gaza war warns an attack on U.S. forces could widen it

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

One of the diplomats trying to stop the Israel-Hamas war gave a warning.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

He said an attack on U.S. forces could widen the war instead of ending it. The prime minister of Qatar is in Washington for talks with U.S. officials, trying to work out a framework of a deal to pause or end the war in Gaza and get Israeli hostages released.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from Tel Aviv. So what's this warning about?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: It all stems from this attack against U.S. forces. Three American service members were killed in a drone attack in Jordan. The U.S. says the attack came from an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq. And officials tell NPR that the air defense systems at the base were thwarted. It appears that a U.S. drone was in the sky at the same time as this enemy drone, and so operators were confused. They didn't know whether this was a friendly or an enemy aircraft, so it was able to attack the base. More than 40 other U.S. troops were injured. And now what everyone is waiting for is the U.S. response.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And then there's concern that that response, whatever it happens to be, could derail these talks.

PERALTA: Yeah. That's right. The prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, is in Washington for talks with U.S. officials. Qatar is playing a critical role in the negotiations with Israel, the U.S. and Egypt. And speaking to the Atlantic Council, he said the situation in the Middle East is boiling. Everyone, he says, is dancing at the edge, and everyone knows that this attack against U.S. forces in Jordan will have consequences. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL THANI: I hope that nothing would undermine the efforts that we are doing or jeopardize the process, yet it will definitely have an impact. One way or another, it will have an impact on the regional security. And we hope that things get contained and not to get escalated beyond control.

PERALTA: This attack against U.S. forces is coming at a really critical time in this Israeli war against Hamas. The death toll is mounting. There are still more than a hundred Israeli hostages in Gaza. They've been there since October 7. There's been high-level meetings in Paris to reach a deal or to try to stop or pause the fighting and to release the hostages. And the worry is that these attacks in the region can complicate those talks.

And what the prime minister of Qatar is saying is that whatever that American retaliation is, has the potential to throw the peace process between Israel and Hamas into disarray. And that's important because so much of this chaos has emerged from this conflict. Just to put that in context, the Pentagon says that there have been about 160 attacks against U.S. bases since the Gaza war broke out.

MARTÍNEZ: And about that peace process, Eyder, I mean, what are the chances of something coming out of it?

PERALTA: Our understanding is that right now, it's with Hamas - that they are considering the deal that was hashed out by the international community. And the outside world seems much more hopeful about the prospects. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that there was, quote, "real hope" for a deal.

But since those talks wrapped, there have been dueling statements issued by Israel and Hamas that leave an impression that there is still a lot of work to do. There's even disagreement about what a cease-fire would mean. Would it be for a determined amount of time, or would it be a permanent cease-fire? And meanwhile, the war continues in Gaza. More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza's health ministry. And yesterday evening, Hamas launched rockets toward here in Tel Aviv. That hadn't happened in weeks. And in the West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli military raided a major hospital there and killed three militants. They say they were planning an attack. The hospital says that they were actually patients.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, that's NPR's Eyder Peralta, reporting from Tel Aviv. Thank you very much.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. 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.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.