In A Crowded Gaza, A Growing Sense That Nowhere Is Safe

Two weeks into the conflict in the Gaza Strip, more than 600 Palestinians — mostly civilians — and 29 Israelis have been killed. Two recent Israeli strikes, on a school and a hospital, reflect the scope of Israel's offensive.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel. And we begin this hour with developments in Gaza, Israel and Cairo. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Egypt trying to forge a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JOHN KERRY: The loss of lives and the humanitarian impact is really heartbreaking. And we're joining our international partners in reiterating our call for an immediate end to the fighting and a return to the cease-fire that was reached in 2012.

SIEGEL: Also today, a militant rocket struck near Israel's main airport. That prompted U.S. authorities to ban flights there.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We'll have more on those stories in a few minutes. First, to the Gaza Strip. In the past two weeks, more than 600 Palestinians - mostly civilians - have been killed. Twenty-seven Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have been killed. And NPR's Emily Harris sent this story from Gaza on two Israeli strikes that hit a school and a hospital.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Today United Nations schools in Gaza got caught up in the conflict. For the second time in a week, U.N. staff found a stash of rockets in a school. Israeli fire also hit a U.N. school today several times for the second day in a row. A witness said it was largely empty and no one was hurt. But U.N. staff were at the school inspecting damage. Usually international agencies make sure both warring parties know exactly where they're going. Hamas is a guerrilla force and militants do move among civilians. Fighting Hamas, Israel has hit more than 1,700 targets in the past five days. Questions have been raised internationally about the destructive sweep of Israel's response to Hamas rockets. Gaza's urban areas are densely populated. Today's hit on the school adds to a growing sense that nowhere here is really safe. Yesterday, the al-Aqsa Hospital in the town of Deir al-Balah was hit. This morning, a man mopped at the entrance. It smelled soapy like a hospital. But upstairs in the rooms that were destroyed yesterday a dusty smell lingered in the air. Concrete chunks, broken plastic and twisted metal covered the floor. It's clear from the shrapnel and scorch marks there were multiple hits. One missile traveled through three walls. In room 408, Halad al-Banli (ph), a young man in his 20s was killed along with three family members. His father-in-law, Hamouda Abuhalad (ph), had heard explosions all around the hospital and had gone to get the car to take his relatives home.

HAMOUDA ABUHALAD: (Through translator) When he wanted to go out, another rocket formed in the yard of the hospital. So he said, I will go into the hospital because it's the safest place we can stay in. So when he was just, like, stepping on the first floor, he found his son and another relative coming down full of dust and they say Halad died.

HARRIS: More explosions sent him running for cover. Israel says it was targeting anti-tank missiles in the immediate vicinity. Hospital staff say they heard no explosions except what hit the building. Al-Aqsa hospital was open today. Administrators say they can't close because it's the main hospital for central Gaza and the sick, as well as the wounded now, keep coming. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.

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