Gaza Neighborhood Caught in Crossfire of Attacks
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
We're about to check up on people caught in the middle of a conflict. They're residents of Gaza, that strip of Palestinian territory ruled by Hamas. Gaza has been used as a launching pad for missiles into Israel. Israel sent in troops over the weekend and killed at least 120 Palestinians. And the areas is under an Israeli blockade, part of an effort to pressure Hamas.
Today, British aide groups say conditions are worse than they've been in decades. More than a million Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on food aid and unemployment is close to 40 percent.
NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.
LINDA GRADSTEIN: Last Thursday afternoon a group of boys were playing soccer in a dirt alley eastern Jabalia, just a few miles from Gaza's border with Israel. Suddenly, Palestinians here say, an Israeli drone launched a missile at the group of boys, killing four of them and seriously wounding three others.
(Soundbite of crying)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They were playing here. They were playing…
GRADSTEIN: Monir Dardone(ph) lost his seven-year-old son, Ali, in the attack. He pulls out tattered pieces of black clothing from his pocket, part of what he says his son was wearing when he died. Monir is a deaf mute, so his brother Bilal, who says he also witnessed the attack, speaks for him.
Bilal says there were no Kasam rockets launched in Israel from anywhere nearby.
Mr. BILAL DARDONE (Uncle of Killed Child): They know, the Israelis know that no rockets have been launched from this area. But they wanted to banish us. They wanted to frighten us to make upset for the loss of the children.
GRADSTEIN: And Israeli army spokesman said troops attacked what he called a group of rocket-launching Palestinians in northern Gaza. He expressed regret over the killing of innocent civilians but said Palestinians often fire rockets from populated areas.
At a makeshift food distribution center, dozens of Palestinians try to push their way in. Najed Abu-Gravo(ph), a tall soft-spoken father of six, managed to get some of the vegetables being distributed. Back at his sparsely-furnished house, his children tear open the bags and begin chewing on the raw cabbage leaves and cucumbers.
He shows visitors the bullet holes in the porch of his house. Najed says he's not a Hamas supporter and that he wants a peace deal with Israel. But he says at least for now the rocket fire should continue.
Mr. NAJED ABU-GRAVO (Gaza Resident): (Through translator) We have no alternative for these rockets, since it is naked(ph) right for us (unintelligible) and to stand in front of the face of that occupation
GRADSTEIN: He says that Israeli incursion, which was meant to stop rocket fire on southern Israel, failed. Najed's father, Mohammed Abu-Gravo, says Hamas, which has launched most of the recent rockets at Israel, has become more popular.
Last week an Israeli civilian died in a rocket attack, and over the weekend several rockets hit the Israeli town of Ashkelon, 10 miles north of Gaza. Israeli officials say these rockets are Iranian made and far more destructive than the thousands of homemade Kasams that have been fired from Gaza until now.
In a small shopping center in Ashkelon, Svetlana Bucksman(ph), who emigrated to Israel from Ukraine 16 years ago, says she's living in fear of more rocket attacks.
Ms. SVETLANA BUCKSMAN (Gaza Resident): (Through translator) I have a son and I can't sleep because I'm afraid I'll miss the alarm for an incoming rocket. If this continues I'll have to leave here, and maybe even leave Israel. We can't live like this.
GRADSTEIN: Armond Laluul(ph), who's lived Ashkelon for 45 years, says he wants the army to do more to stop the rocket fire.
Mr. ARMOND LALUUL (Gaza Resident): (Through translator) It's a new painful reality and we'll have to deal with it. the army must hit Hamas hard and solve the problem. We can't play games here. They're using force so we have to use force in response.
GRADSTEIN: Israeli officials saying more than 150,000 Israelis are now living under the threat of rocket fire from Gaza.
Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Gaza.
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