Holding Fire in Middle East: Will It Last?

Christiane Amanpour meets the man who is a hero to Palestinians and a terrorist to Israelis.
6:52 | 11/21/12

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Transcript for Holding Fire in Middle East: Will It Last?
Well, tonight, the guns of gaza and israel have gone silent, for now. A hard won and desperately fragile cease-fire is in place, on paper, between israel and palestinians have been schilling each other for days and threatening a wider, bloodier war. In gaza tonight, celebrations as israel agreed to end air strikes that have killed more than 160 people. For israel, a promise of no more rocket fire from gaza and attempted incursions from there, but on the ground, there are already signs now that the peace may not be holding. So, we begin our coverage of the cease-fire with matt gutman in tel aviv. Reporter: It took eight bloody days, more than 160 palestinians killed and israeli bombardment and six israel littles killed from some 1,500 palestinian rockets. But tonight, a cease-fire, as terrified civilians on both sides breathe a cautious sigh of relief. The egyptians who worked to broker this cease-fire announced it. And with the american secretary of state standing next to the new egyptian foreign minister, surely a potent symbol of the post-arab spring middle east. Now that there is a cease-fire, I am looking forward to working with the foreign minister and others to move this process. Reporter: In a synchronized statement an hour later in israel, prime minister benjamin netanyahu cautiously endorsed the plan, thanks secretary clinton and president obama, and blaming iran for arming hamas. Hamas declared victory sand saying, "we won this round and netanyahu lost in his first war ever. In six months time, we will have more strength and longer range and more accurate missiles." On the palestinian side, the truce was met with jubilation, celebratory gun fire in the gaza strip. On the israeli side, grim-faced israeli leaders briefed the country about this deal. And just hours after they did that, nearly two dozen rockets lobbed from gaza into israel la landed, increasing the skepticism. One israeli official says this is quiet for quiet, nothing more and doubt it will last two minutes. Tonight, already, israeli can comedians lampooning leaders for brokering this deal. Terry? Thank you, matt. This historic cease-fire was signed in cairo. That's a sign, as matt pointed out, of the rising influence of a new and democratic egypt. But the key player in all of this is a man who is a hero to many palestinians. And a terrorist to israelis. The leader of hamas. A new power player in the world, and abc's christiane amanpour is in cairo. She's got an exclusive interview. Reporter: Terry, cairo has been the scene of frantic shuttle diplomacy today. U.S. Cemetery of state hillary clinton as well as the u.N. Chief have been here. They will not talk to hamas, because hamas is considered by the u.S. And israel and much of the west as a terrorist organization. So, when you hear about the man who the egyptian president is negotiating with on behalf of israel, it's this man that i spoke to today. And we had a fiery exchange about civilian casualties, both recognize israel's right to exist. Anyone looking for a sign that the arab spring has changed the middle east can find it here. The cease-fire would not have happened without this man. But for decades, he's bun one of israel's most hated enemies. They've tried to kill him and they consider him a terrorist. Today, he was unapologetic for the actions that his group has taken. Is it useful to kill civilians to create terror on civilians inside israel? Translator: Let me -- let me give you the proof. On the 8th of november, this month, the israelis entered gaza and killed a child. They bear the responsibility. We don't target the civilians. I don't like to shed any blood -- any drop of blood. Reporter: Do you consider how many palestinian civilians are being killed because of your actions? Translator: It is not because of our action. We are defending our people and our land. Reporter: Hamas is a militant islamic party that won the popular vote in gaza. It's gaining popularity in the west bank and does not recognize israel's right to exist. Translator: How can I accept israel? They have occupied my land. I need recognition, not the israelis. Reporter: He is a kind of storied figure in middle east, because israel littles tried to ASSASSINATE HIM IN THE '90s IN Jordan. Translator: But god saved me when they tried to assassinate me. Reporter: King hussein saved you. Allah saved me. Reporter: Seven years later, he became the head of hamas. In a situation where the palestinians have, for years, seemed to lack real leadership and divided against themselves in many cases, meshaal is thought by some to have aspirations of eventually filling the leadership vacuum left with the death of yasser arafat. He's not as charismatic as arafat, but he is a hero to many. What do you want to do for your people? It's endless war. Translator: Allah has given me a new life, to serve my people. To end the occupation. The settlement ends and the killing ends and the aggression ends and to make peace in the region, but through peace, peace that is not rewarding the occupier, does not oppress the victim. Peace, the kind of peace that precludes occupation and the bloodshed. Reporter: Meshaal is thought to be part of the wing that was advocating a turn away from violence for his group. One question, can he corral those people within his own camp who have likely been emboldened by the success of the current campaign of rocket attacks on israel? And another wrinkle. Hamas is not the only group fishing rackets from gaza into israel. Islamic jihad has been doing that and a splinter palestinian group took responsibility for the bus bombing in tel aviv today. So, the question is, will hamas be able to control those people in gaza and thus stake out a real leadership role? Certainly hamas will be held responsible.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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