Middle East

What You Need To Know About The War In Gaza

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On Sunday morning, an Israeli airstrike hit outside a UN-run school in Gaza, where many had gone to seek safety. NPR's Arun Rath gets the latest from Mideast correspondent Emily Harris in Gaza.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. An Israeli airstrike hit outside a UN-run school this morning in Gaza where many had gone to seek safety. Health officials say at least 10 people were killed. Just last night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said soldiers were close to destroying a sufficient number of the tunnels Hamas militants were using to enter Israel. But he also said the military operation would continue until it restored, in his word, quiet, for Israelis for a long period of time. We're joined by NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza now. Hi, Emily.


RATH: What do you know about the explosion near the school in Rafah?

HARRIS: Rafah's the area in southern Gaza Strip where a lot of the most intensive fighting has been happening over the past day or so. I spoke to a UN official here in Gaza City. The reports he was getting was that an Israeli airstrike targeted someone on a motorcycle that was riding through this area and struck while the motorcycle was passing the gate of the school. He stressed that these are initial reports that he's getting from people on the ground in Rafah. But that's what we know at this point. I should add, the Israeli military says it is still investigating the incident and didn't have any information right now.

RATH: Are there any signs the Israeli military is pulling back?

HARRIS: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave sort of a double message yesterday - one, that they're close to destroying tunnels here but also that they'll continue until goals are met, which include significantly destroying Hamas's infrastructure and, as you mentioned, restoring quiet to Israel. Yesterday, the military told residents of certain areas that it was safe to go back to their homes. We went up to one of those areas, Beit Lahia in the north, today. And even in the town you could hear shelling going on around us. So the residents we spoke to did not feel 100 percent safe. The military has said that ground forces are being redeployed across the Gaza Strip. And with this idea that they'll finish up destroying the tunnels in the next day or so, it looks like they may be prepared to pull some ground forces out of Gaza.

RATH: News came late last night that Israel has determined a soldier, previously said to have been captured by Hamas militants, was actually dead. Does that change perceptions of the war?

HARRIS: It's not totally clear what happened yet, but it does seem that this soldier was likely killed in Israeli airstrikes in response to the Hamas missions coming through the tunnel. The death of the Israeli soldier is something Hamas claimed yesterday. And Hamas said they had lost contact with the militant group that carried out the attack on Israeli troops. And then later that evening, Israel announced that the soldier was, in fact, dead. One thing it changes significantly is that Israel now doesn't face the decision of what to do about a captive soldier - rescue or negotiate. And also, Hamas does not have a soldier, an Israeli soldier, as a bargaining chip.

RATH: NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza. Emily, thank you.

HARRIS: Thank you.

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