Gazans who fled Northern Gaza say they're running out of places to flee to
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Israel's military says it has expanded its ground offensive in Gaza and is now targeting Hamas strongholds all across the Gaza Strip.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Israeli forces are telling people to flee some areas to avoid those strikes, and that is the hard part. Many civilians have already moved from northern Gaza to the south and may now face demands to leave the same areas to which they fled.
MARTIN: Joining us now with more is NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Tel Aviv. Eleanor, hello.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hello.
MARTIN: So the fighting resumed on Friday after the cease-fire broke down. Would you just start by telling us more about Israel's stepped-up operations?
BEARDSLEY: Well, Israel says it's hit hundreds of Hamas targets overnight as its forces pushed deeper into Gaza. And there were multiple strikes in and around the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, where the top Hamas leadership is believed to be located, including Yahya Sinwar, who orchestrated the October 7 attack. Israeli media is reporting that any fighting in Khan Younis will be complicated not only by the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled from the north, but also by the fact that some of the Israeli hostages are believed to be held somewhere around the city. Here's Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
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DANIEL HAGARI: (Non-English language spoken).
BEARDSLEY: He says the Israeli forces are fighting Hamas terrorists face-to-face wherever they are and killing them. The Israeli military says it has found 800 Hamas tunnels since the beginning of the war, and it claims to have destroyed 500 of them.
MARTIN: As we already mentioned, Israel is telling many people in the areas that it is targeting to leave. But how?
BEARDSLEY: The Israeli army is claiming they have published a very detailed digital map online to help people get to safer places, and they've also dropped leaflets. You know, they're urging people to go east or west toward the sea, but you can't go any farther south, so it's difficult. NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, spoke with Gazans yesterday. Here's Basel Bassyouni. He's an engineer and a father. He's putting up a tent for his family in Rafah. He's just fled Khan Younis. He says there are no words to describe the horrible conditions and what's happening.
BASEL BASSYOUNI: (Non-English language spoken).
BEARDSLEY: He says, "there more than a hundred families here." "And the last two nights were the most terrible in my life," he told NPR. Bassyouni says he and his five children watched as the sky was lit up with bombing.
MARTIN: What are you hearing Israelis saying about this renewed fighting?
BEARDSLEY: Well, some Israelis will tell you that it's just time to get rid of Hamas once and for all. But here in Tel Aviv, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that getting the hostages out is more important than the war, and it should come first. I was at a massive rally in Tel Aviv over the weekend for the more than hundred hostages still in Gaza. Hadas Calderon spoke. Her two children, ages 12 and 16, were kidnapped from a kibbutz and just released. Here she is.
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HADAS CALDERON: (Non-English language spoken).
BEARDSLEY: "Mom, you're alive is the first thing my kids said to me," she tells the crowd. And her kids thought she had been killed when they were separated in the October 7 Hamas attack. And Calderon told the crowd, we can't leave the hostages there in the dark and helpless.
MARTIN: And you were in the Israeli-occupied West Bank over the weekend. What are people saying there?
BEARDSLEY: People feel frustrated, and there's powerlessness over what's happening in Gaza. I spoke with 70-year-old Amad Omar, a jeweler in Ramallah. He described how people feel.
AMAD OMAR: They feel so bad about Gaza. You know, it's affecting everybody 'cause they're Palestinians, you know, the same people. We can't do nothing about it. They bombarded it so much. We see little kids. It's hard.
BEARDSLEY: Tensions have risen in the West Bank since October 7, and Israeli human rights groups say that 250 Palestinians have been killed since then. One told me it was a pressure cooker ready to explode.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Tel Aviv. Eleanor, thank you.
BEARDSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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