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Latest Violence Quickly Escalates Between Israelis, Palestinians


Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has escalated quickly, and there is no clear resolution in sight. Palestinians say Israeli warplanes have bombed Gaza, killing at least 43 Palestinians, including militants and civilians. Among the civilians are women and children. Israel says rockets from Gaza have killed six people in Israel. Over three days, this conflict has grown to include street fights between Jewish and Palestinian citizens within Israel.

NPR's Daniel Estrin is just outside the city of Lod in Israel. This is normally a peaceful place, but now a state of emergency has been declared. Hi, Daniel.


KING: What has been happening there? What is happening now?

ESTRIN: Well, Lod is near the Tel Aviv International Airport. It's one of the cities that has been under attack, an unprecedented number of rockets that were fired toward Tel Aviv, toward the neighboring areas. This is rare, rocket fire deep inside Israel fired by militants in Gaza. A 63-year-old Israeli grandmother, Leah Yom-Tov, was killed yesterday when a rocket hit her home.

Then today, early in the morning, a father and a teenage daughter, Halil and Nadine Awad, they're Palestinian citizens of Israel, they were killed when a rocket hit just outside their home. I am here outside the home now. I can smell the charred remains of their car that caught on fire. I met a friend of the family, Buthaina Dabit. She said the 16-year-old Nadine wanted to be a doctor. Let's listen.

BUTHAINA DABIT: It's against all of us, like, this situation because violence or war is against all humanity, not just Arabs or Jews or - it's against nature.

ESTRIN: This is an area where Jews and Arabs, citizens, all live side by side. I met a supermarket cashier, a Jewish woman, Tanya Isaev (ph) who was up all night with her young kids. They were frightened from the air raid sirens. They ran into the stairwell of their apartment building, and they met their neighbors who are Palestinian Arabs. And here's what she told me.

TANYA ISAEV: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She said, "I hugged my neighbor's kids, and my neighbor hugged my kids."

KING: OK. What is happening on the other side of the conflict? What is happening in Gaza?

ESTRIN: Residents are - have been up all night. They've been hearing the whoosh of Palestinian rocket fire leaving Gaza toward Israel. They've been hearing the booms of Israeli warplanes striking inside Gaza. The Israeli military says it's targeted several residential buildings in airstrikes targeting Palestinian militants. And one strike targeted the home of the Masri family in the Gaza Strip. Apparently, a militant unrelated to the family was killed there but also five members of the same family, including an 8-year-old, Rahaf, 10-year-old Yazan. That's according to officials in Gaza.

My colleague in Gaza visited some of the families of the wounded and saw how anguished they were. There was one mother who said our boys were killed on behalf of Jerusalem. Palestinians perceive Jerusalem is under attack from Israel. And other family members cursed Hamas and said this fight for Jerusalem will not bring back our loved ones.

KING: Daniel, is anyone making an effort to try and stop this?

ESTRIN: There are reports that Arab and international mediators are trying to encourage a cease-fire. There are reports also that the U.S. State Department may send a senior envoy here. But I spoke to a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He told me Israel is nowhere near a cease-fire yet. Israel's goal is still to stop the rocket fire and deter this and future violence.

KING: And it's concerning because the violence seems to be expanding. It started in Jerusalem. It led to strikes from the air and land. And now there is fighting in the streets.

ESTRIN: That's right. In a very rare move, Israel has sent paramilitary troops from the occupied West Bank into this area of Lod, a normally peaceful area. And there's been street violence here. There has been anger against potential evictions of Palestinians in Jerusalem. Driving around, you see synagogues, mosques, churches, but I'm told a Jewish cemetery and a synagogue were set on fire, an attempt to set fire to a mosque. It's very worrisome.

KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin from just outside the city of Lod in Israel. Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.