Deaths Mount Into The Dozens As Gaza Strip Bombardment Builds

Israeli air strikes continue to pound the Gaza Strip. NPR's Emily Harris reports from Gaza on the intensifying conflict there.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block. An air war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip is escalating. For several days, rockets fired by Hamas and other groups in Gaza have been raining down on Israel reaching far north and sending people into shelters, so far with no deaths reported. Since Tuesday, Israel has answered with a campaign of airstrikes, killing at least 89 people and wounding more than 600. From Gaza, NPR's Emily Harris reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

EMILY HARRIS: When an ambulance pulls up outside the main entrance of Gaza's largest hospital, visitors and reporters press in to see the latest victim of Israeli missiles. Burly men in fresh blue fatigues, some armed, press gawkers back. This afternoon a thin young boy - eyes open, head and hand wrapped in white bandages - was carried from the ambulance to a curtained bed inside. He is one of hundreds injured in the past three days of intense Israeli airstrikes. Upstairs in the children's ward, Samah al-Masri comforts her four-year-old niece, Shayna.

SAMAH MASRI: (Foreign language spoken).

E. HARRIS: Masri says the girl's mother was among family members killed as they left a relative's house. Shrapnel pierced Shayna's stomach and side. Masri says she's not sure who will care for the girl now that her mother is gone.

MASRI: (Through translator) I will try to take her with me, or maybe she'll stay with her father and his other wife. But she was so closely connected to her mother.

E. HARRIS: In the next bed is Abdel Majd, an eight-year-old boy. His oldest brother Jehad Abu Marahin explains what happened.

JEHAD ABU MARAHIN: (Through translator) He and his cousin were watching TV when an F-16 shelled the field behind the house. The ceiling collapsed and mud and rubble buried them.

E. HARRIS: They survived. The cousin is in surgery. Another brother takes us to see the spot the boys were injured. The extended family lives in several one-story mud rooms between taller residential buildings in Gaza city and an open field. The ceiling of one room has collapsed, scattering red cushions. The television is still on the table. This home doesn't appear to have been the target. It apparently just couldn't withstand the nearby impact. Israel ramped off the number of strikes in Gaza today. Rockets shot from Gaza into Israel continued, too. A few landed or were intercepted as far away as Jerusalem and air raid sirens in major cities sent Israelis scrambling. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he's not considering a cease-fire at this time. Neither is Hamas says Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the militant Islamist group that officially gave up governing the Gaza Strip, but still controls it.

FAWZI BARHOUM: We are not talking about it for now because we are the Palestinians. We are the victims. The repercussion is that the criminals - now they are killing their people - killing the civilians. Till now, they are bombard Gaza by all shape of bombarding - from the sea, from the sky, from everywhere.

E. HARRIS: More than 100 rockets hit Israel today according to the Israeli military. Hamas Spokesman Barhoum says Hamas will stop rockets when Israeli airstrikes stop. But Israeli officials say they'll quiet their forces when Hamas is quiet. So both sides say the other must stop firing first. Meanwhile, the parents of injured Gazan children have to figure out a way to tell them why they are hurt. Majed Abu Rahil's son, Khalid, was in that mud house with his cousin watching TV when the ceiling collapsed.

MAJED ABU RAHIL: (Through translator) I will tell him exactly what happened so at least he will understand what we are suffering as a people. He is just a child, but he must learn that we are fighting our enemies for our homeland. He has to know why this happened.

E. HARRIS: His nephew, Jehad, takes a broader view. I'll tell the boys this is what God had written for them. he said. And he'll tell them that God will punish the Israelis. Streets in Gaza City were quieter than usual today. The boom of explosives continued after sunset. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza City.

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