Return To Gaza Reveals Scenes Of Destruction In the Gaza Strip, exhausted Palestinians are surveying devastation following more than three weeks of attacks by the Israeli military. A fragile truce appears to be holding, for now. Throughout Gaza, anger mixed with sorrow as families cautiously took stock of their losses and in some cases buried their dead.
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Return To Gaza Reveals Scenes Of Destruction

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Return To Gaza Reveals Scenes Of Destruction

Return To Gaza Reveals Scenes Of Destruction

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. In the Gaza Strip today, exhausted Palestinians surveyed the devastation following more than three weeks of attacks by the Israeli military. Those attacks left some 1,300 Palestinians dead, and large parts of many neighborhoods destroyed. Thirteen Israelis were killed in the fighting, including 10 soldiers. A fragile truce appears to be holding for now. Throughout Gaza, anger mixed with sorrow as families took stock of their losses and in some cases, buried their dead. From Gaza, NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Mariam Soboh died this morning, 20 days after she was born in a Gaza hospital soon after the start of the Israeli offensive against Hamas. Her parents, Bilal and Kamilia, decided that same day to flee their Gaza home in the face of Israeli air strikes. Mariam's grandfather, Mohammed Soboh, spoke about the family's ordeal today as an unmanned Israeli drone buzzed overhead.

Mr. MOHAMMED SOBOH: (Through Translator) Imagine: On that Saturday morning, she gave birth and in the afternoon, on the same day, we had to flee our home. A small baby couldn't stand the cold weather and the smoke from the bombs.

WESTERVELT: The newborn fell sick as her parents tried to weather the war at a U.N. school that was turned into a refugee shelter. There was limited water and food. It was cold and unbearably stressful. Bilal says he and his wife couldn't get the baby girl to a health clinic for six days. It was just too dangerous.

This afternoon, at a cemetery in the Beit Lahia district, Bilal wrapped his baby daughter in a white, cotton shroud, cradled her in a small blanket, and kissed her forehead. The 19-year-old farmer then lowered his daughter's corpse into a makeshift burial chamber of cinderblocks dug into the sand, with a piece of scrap metal for a cover. Bilal was silent and morose. Mariam's grandfather, Mohammed, was upset he couldn't afford a suitable burial.

Mr. MOHAMMED SOBOH: (Through Translator) We can't afford a proper cover for the coffin. We didn't even pay for the cinderblocks, and I was afraid the cemetery guard would charge me for them.

WESTERVELT: Mariam was Bilal and Kamilia's first child. After the burial, they returned to find their home completely destroyed. We have no place to stay. We have nothing, the grandfather said. There were scenes of loss and devastation across Gaza today, the first full day of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

In the Tuam neighborhood of Gaza City, 36-year-old Imad Wahbee loaded scraps of splintered wood and mangled kitchen pots on to a horse-drawn cart. It's all that's left of his house that was leveled in Israeli air and artillery strikes. The neighborhood is decimated. Whole apartment buildings are destroyed.

Mr. IMAD WAHBEE: (Through Translator) We found nothing. Nothing is left for us. Nothing. It's like a very strong earthquake happened here. Even a very strong earthquake wouldn't destroy as much as they did.

WESTERVELT: Just up the debris-choked road, Maha al-Sultan stood in front of her ruined home, weeping, angry and broken. Mrs. Sultan belittled Hamas' claims of victory in the confrontation with Israel, and she lashed out at the Islamist group's top leaders, who live in exile in Syria.

Ms. MAHA AL-SULTAN: (Through Translator) Where is the victory Hamas is talking about? Show us the victory. We are the only ones dead and destroyed. Where are the burned Israeli tanks and dead soldiers? All I see is our dead. Where is Khaled Mashaal? He's living in a castle in Syria. Let him see our destroyed houses.

WESTERVELT: As she spoke, two Israeli fighter jets suddenly swooped low overhead.

(Soundbite of fighter jets)

WESTERVELT: The American-made jets shot off defensive flares and tilted their wings, as if to remind Sultan and others here who still controls the air, sea and land borders into this battered sliver of coastal land. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Gaza City.

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