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An Uneasy End To Ramadan In Gaza, Where Fighting Intensifies Once More


Today, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told his country this - be prepared for a long military campaign in Gaza. The fighting between Israel and Hamas has intensified after some periods of relative calm over the weekend. Since the conflict began, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed - mostly civilians. Around 50 Israeli soldiers have been killed, along with three civilians in Israel. For more on the latest, NPR's Emily Harris joins us from Gaza. Emily, we woke up today to news of a cease-fire. What happened then?

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Yeah. It was a seesaw of a day, Ari. Today was the first day of Eid. That's a major Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and it's also a family celebration day. And it - the morning did break with some uncertainty on who had accepted what cease-fire. But it really have been relatively quiet overnight, and it was quiet for most of the day.

People were visiting relatives - a lot of relatives who were taking shelter other places - not at their homes. And there were these hand-cranked merry-go-rounds out on the street that kids were playing on. And the Israeli military actually said, they were in limitless remission, which is military speak for, apparently, ongoing cease-fire mode. But by the late afternoon, attacks had resumed on both sides.

SHAPIRO: And what can you tell us about those attacks?

HARRIS: Well, several different types of attacks. Into Israel, militants from Gaza used a tunnel to enter Israel, and there was a fight there. The Israeli military says that it killed one person from that militant group. Mortars from Gaza landed in Israel, and the military says, that killed four soldiers in that attack. In Gaza, there were multiple attacks, and these have increased significantly since night has fallen here.

This afternoon, there were two hits in Gaza City. One was on a crowded city street in a residential area, and one was near the main hospital. The hospital hit did not kill anyone. The one in the residential area appears to have killed five to 10 people, including children, and injured about 40 people. I saw three bodies. One is clearly a child, and the others - you couldn't tell 'cause they were in white plastic bags being carried to funerals.

Now, Israel says that both of these attacks were caused by Hamas rockets gone wrong. Hamas says that their explosive experts have determined that both attacks were carried out by Israeli weapons. This narrative of who is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza is a big part of the information side of the war between Israel and Hamas.

SHAPIRO: So when you have these contradictory claims - Hamas saying, Israel is responsible - Israel saying, Hamas is responsible - what kind of evidence do the two sides cite to support their argument?

HARRIS: Well, Israel says, they can tell by the radar system that tracks fire coming out of Gaza and can tell where it hits. Hamas says, they sent their weapons experts to the sites and determined that these were Israeli weapons. I'm not an expert in determining what weapons are used where, but I can tell you what things look like. The hospital hit was a small crater in the sand. An eight-foot section of concrete wall had been blown out.

In the residential area, the hit was clearly much more powerful. There was shrapnel marks up to the second floor on one side of the street, and cars had their windows blown out. Just to give you a sense of the situation, you know, people were standing there looking. They'd gathered up remains. They were washing blood into the gutter with buckets of water. And then at the hospital, it's very different than an American hospital. It's crowded, and families are all over the place, pushing stretchers. It's very, very immediate at the hospital in Gaza.

SHAPIRO: And tell us a little bit more about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his remarks to the country tonight.

HARRIS: Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel's not going to end its military operation in Gaza until it destroys the militant tunnels that are along the border between Israel and Gaza. He also said that any solution to the crisis in Gaza has to ensure that Gaza is demilitarized. It's not clear how long Israel will continue the operation in Gaza. Israel's military chief-of-staff says, it will take a number of days.

The UN Security Council, this morning, urged Israel and Hamas to implement a unconditional humanitarian truce this week. And Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier that the statement did not take Israel's security concerns into consideration enough.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Emily Harris speaking with us from Gaza. Emily, thank you and stay safe.

HARRIS: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.