Israel, Hamas Escalate Tit-For-Tat Strikes

Israeli forces continued air strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for a second day on Thursday, as the death toll started to rise. Audie Cornish talks to Anthony Kuhn.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with new fighting in an old conflict. Israeli war planes struck targets across the Gaza Strip today, while Hamas militants and their allies fired rockets at several Israeli towns. One rocket landed on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv. Three Israeli civilians were killed in one attack and at least 19 Palestinians are known to have been killed in Gaza, with many more injured.

We're going to hear now from both sides of the border. First, to Gaza City where fighting began after Israel's assassination yesterday of a top Hamas commander. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is there and joins us now. And Anthony, to begin, what can you tell us about this Hamas commander who was killed yesterday?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Well, today's most public event was the funeral of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the top commander of the military wing of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip. And his supporters carried him atop their arms to the Grand Mosque here in Gaza and there was a lot of talk of revenge and there was a lot of gunfire. And Israel says that he was responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians for the past decade, but he was, you know, to many Palestinians, he was a resistance figure.

And his funeral was a scene of great emotion today.

CORNISH: You mentioned gunfire. Can you talk more about what you seen and heard in Gaza today?

KUHN: Well, the day was full of explosions and I think people know now that there are two kinds. There's the kind that go whoosh. Those are the outgoing rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups here and then there are the large building-rattling explosions of Israeli bombs coming in which send up big plumes of smoke and dust.

And these have continued throughout the day up into the evening and there is some shaking windows as we speak right now.

CORNISH: Anthony, what are you hearing from the people of Gaza in reaction to the fighting?

KUHN: Well, it's very hard on people. They're unable to sleep. They don't feel safe. A lot of people have had to move. They feel surrounded. They hear Israeli war planes above them. There's reportedly Israeli war ships offshore and Israeli tanks and artillery outside the Gaza strip. And I saw some of these being moved towards the border with Gaza as I was coming in today.

So preparations are there for a larger ground offensive if the Israeli government deems it necessary.

CORNISH: Lastly, are Gazans worried about the possibility of an Israeli ground offensive?

KUHN: Yes. They have seen that three years ago. It's very costly in terms of human life and you have to remember that the Gaza Strip is a very small area with a lot of people in it and that is people's main concern. Everybody knows that both sides would pay a high cost in human life for a ground offensive.

CORNISH: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Gaza City. Anthony, thank you so much for talking with us.

KUHN: Thank you.

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