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Israel Bombards Gaza, Destroying Offices Of Al Jazeera And AP


The Israeli bombardment of Gaza took another disturbing turn today, so that's where we're going to start the program. Officials say eight children and two others, all from the same extended family, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a home. A Palestinian rocket killed a man in Israel, too. Then Israel demolished a building in Gaza that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Israel claimed Palestinian militants also used the building. The AP said in a statement it was shocked and horrified by the attack. And President Biden has since spoken with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem and is with us now with the latest. Daniel, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Thank you, Michel, for having me.

MARTIN: First, if you would, tell us more about what happened to the AP and Al Jazeera building.

ESTRIN: This is a 12-story building in Gaza City. AP says it's been there for a decade and a half. They have covered three previous Gaza-Israel wars from there. And today, the owner of the building got a call from the Israeli military saying, evacuate now. We're going to target. So AP staffers said they ran down 11 flights of stairs and watched from afar. And Al Jazeera filmed the building owner pleading with an Israeli official on the phone, saying give us just a few more minutes to get more cameras out of the building.

And then an hour after the warning came, three missiles landed on the high rise. There was a big ball of fire, and the building collapsed completely. Now, Israel says Hamas used this building as well for a research and development center. Israel did not provide proof.

I, before joining NPR, was a correspondent with the Associated Press, and I know the staff in Gaza very well. And one of their correspondents is Fares Akram. Just yesterday, his family's farmhouse in Gaza was hit in an Israeli bombing, and he wrote a piece saying that the AP office was the only place in Gaza where he felt somewhat safe.

MARTIN: And earlier, as you said, a Palestinian family was killed. Can you tell us what happened there?

ESTRIN: Yes, my colleague in Gaza spoke to the neighbors of that family. Family got a call from Israel warning them to leave their home. It would be bombed. The father ran out, tried to warn other neighbors. The rest of the family ran to a nearby home. They were bombed. Two women, eight children died. And a search was then underway for missing people under the rubble of the house. And at the funeral, the surviving father fainted several times.

MARTIN: We understand that there was also a casualty in Israel today.

ESTRIN: That's right. A rocket fell in Ramat Gan, which is right next to Tel Aviv, and a man died there. It's very unusual for Palestinian rockets from Gaza to reach that part of Israel so deep inside the country. But we've seen that again and again in this conflict.

MARTIN: So we have just learned that President Biden has weighed in. We know he spoke with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Do we know any more?

ESTRIN: That's right. I mean, we heard the statements that we've heard from the U.S. previously defending Israel's right to defend itself. We heard about high-level U.S. engagement with regional partners, but he raised concerns about the safety of journalists and reinforced their need to ensure their protection. And he told President Abbas that he was looking to rebuild the U.S. relationship with the Palestinians, which stopped under Trump.

MARTIN: So, Daniel, this is all very unsettling, very disturbing. Forgive me for asking you to speculate. But based on your reporting and your expertise, do you have any sense of where this is all headed? Is anybody working toward a ceasefire? Anything you can tell us?

ESTRIN: It is unclear where this is headed. The U.S. and other countries are working various reports about ceasefire attempts. We don't see that anywhere on the horizon. A senior Hamas leader's house was destroyed in an Israeli attack today, Hamas threatening more rocket fire in Tel Aviv. So all that could lead to more escalation.

There's unrest on the streets of Israel. A peace group's staging a rally tonight. They tell me some of their leaders were arrested by Israeli police. It's just a very unsettling feeling, unclear where this is headed, Michel.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thank you so much.

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

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.