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Israel keeps up airstrikes on Gaza, hopes are raised Egypt crossing will stay open

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Buildings of concrete and white stone spread out on the hillsides for miles. This is the West Bank, a largely Palestinian area, and Palestinian activists have called for a general strike here today. They are protesting Israel's military campaign southwest of here in Gaza, responding to the attack by Hamas. Last evening, TV screens showed buildings blown apart after an Israeli airstrike on the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. Afterward, rows of bodies wrapped in white cloth lined the street outside a nearby hospital.

NPR's Greg Myre is following this from Tel Aviv. Hey there, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why does Israel say it struck such a densely populated area?

MYRE: Well, they say the target was this top Hamas commander, Ibrahim Biari. Then they describe him as one of the key Hamas figures in the October 7 Hamas slaughter in Israel. The Israelis say Biari and dozens of other Hamas militants were in a tunnel network beneath the Jabalia camp, and they assess that Biari and many of these others were killed. Photos from the scene show these deep craters, and some analysts say this does point to the possibility, or even likelihood, that the airstrikes hit tunnels and forced them to collapse.

INSKEEP: OK. Do Palestinians and Hamas admit to that?

MYRE: Well, we know they have tunnels. That's not in dispute. But the group says that Biari, the Hamas commander, was not there at the time of the strike and that Israel is intentionally killing Palestinian civilians. According to the interior ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, Israeli fighter jets unloaded at least six large bombs on the neighborhood. It's a scene of utter devastation. We see apartment blocks and homes just reduced to chunks of concrete. Palestinians are calling it one of the deadliest Israeli attacks yet, though we do not have reliable casualty figures.

INSKEEP: Is this strike at all connected with the Israeli ground troops who have now been moving in that area, so far as we know?

MYRE: Well, Steve, I think it potentially says a lot about what's coming. The Israeli troops have now reached the outskirts of Gaza City, the biggest city in the territory. It seems they're trying to push the Hamas fighters to squeeze them into Gaza City and then use airstrikes to hit them. The Israelis are also talking a lot about the Hamas tunnel network, saying this is where Hamas fighters are concentrated. And as we've seen, Israel is prepared to use powerful bombs to penetrate the tunnels.

But human rights groups are saying it's not acceptable to bomb in this way when so many civilians are present aboveground. The leading Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, said in a statement that, quote, "not everything is allowed in war, including war on Hamas."

INSKEEP: OK, so that is one of the big stories today. Would you catch us up on another one, Greg? A lot of people are stuck in Gaza who want out, including Americans. Are they getting out now?

MYRE: So hundreds of people are lined up on the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing, which is the boundary with Egypt. Now, these are foreign nationals who are trying to leave, have been trying to leave. And it appears this could happen today, though the emphasis is on could. The crossing has been used to allow some aid trucks into Gaza, but it has been closed for anyone trying to leave Gaza. There are several hundred U.S. passport holders who are among those stuck in Gaza and are desperately trying to get out. In addition, 81 people badly injured in Gaza will be allowed to go to Egypt to receive medical treatment, according to Palestinian officials. So there have been a number of false starts about the opening at the Rafah crossing, but there is hope that it will open today.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Myre in Tel Aviv. Greg, thanks so much.

MYRE: Sure thing, Steve. 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.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.

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