Casualties Mount As Violence Intensifies Between Hamas, Israel

May 14, 2021
Originally published on May 14, 2021 6:20 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

The conflict between Hamas and Israel is intensifying, and the casualties are increasing, especially in the Gaza Strip. After days of airstrikes and artillery shelling, Israel has called up more troops and launched its heaviest assault yet along the Gaza border. Israel says militants in Gaza have fired more than 1,800 rockets into Israel. Seven people in Israel have been killed, including a young child and a teenager. The losses are much higher, though, on the Palestinian side. Officials say more than a hundred people have died, including 31 children.

NPR's Daniel Estrin is with us now from Jerusalem. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: Are the airstrikes on Gaza continuing?

ESTRIN: Yes. And Israel says, as you mentioned, it launched its biggest concentrated assault yet on Gaza. There were huge amounts of warplanes, artillery units. They targeted an underground tunnel network Israel says Hamas militants use to get around Gaza and avoid being hit by Israel. This attack was in the city of Beit Hanoun. It's a crowded civilian area. And unlike other times when Israel calls residents and warns them to leave before a strike, Israel did not do that this time. Israel used artillery fire, which can be less precise, and it can be hard to avoid casualties.

Reporters cannot enter Gaza. Israel closed the border crossing. But my Palestinian colleague is in Gaza. I've been speaking to him. He spoke with a paramedic who said that they evacuated more than a hundred people to the hospital, and some died from this attack. He also met people who fled the attack and took shelter in a U.N. building. And let's listen to a mother who gave her first name as Ferial (ph).

FERIAL: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She said, "we didn't know where to go when the bombing started. We went to the street. The children were screaming, saying, come on, Mama, let's go. They took their essentials. They saw strikes on one side, bombings on another side." She said even her older children were crying.

KING: OK, so that is what is happening in Gaza. Are the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel continuing?

ESTRIN: Yes. There have been more than a hundred rockets fired into Israel since yesterday evening. Israel's anti-missile battery intercepts some of them midair. And there are reports that two women in Israel fell as they were running to bomb shelters, and they died from their fall.

KING: And we're learning that Israel has called up reserve troops. Is there a sense that this is a preparation for a ground invasion?

ESTRIN: It's unclear. Israel has called up 9,000 reserve troops. We do not know if a ground invasion is in the works.

KING: OK. Do we know if there are mediation efforts in the works to try to prevent that worst-case scenario or potentially worst-case scenario?

ESTRIN: Yes. A U.N. official tells us there are ongoing intensive efforts to mediate a cease-fire. Egypt, Qatar, the U.S. are all involved. They wouldn't go into details. But it does appear that the U.S. is blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution on the fighting. It seems the U.S. prefers quiet mediation.

KING: Lastly, Daniel, you've brought us reporting about crowds of Israeli citizens, Jewish and Palestinian, attacking each other. Is that still going on?

ESTRIN: It is. The city of Lod is still under a state of emergency. A resident there sent me videos from her window of men wandering the streets with batons. There is vandalism. There are acts of kindness as well. And Arab citizens helped put out a fire at a synagogue in one city - but just a lot of fear and civil unrest.

KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.