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Battle Between Israel And Hamas Enters 2nd Week, Gaza Tunnels Targeted


It's been a week of intense fighting and rising death tolls in the Middle East, especially in the Gaza Strip. And the battle between Israel and Hamas shows no sign of ending. Militant rocket fire into Israel continues, as do Israeli air strikes into Gaza. Palestinian officials say at least 200 have died in Gaza now, and at least 10 have died in Israel. NPR's Jackie Northam is in Jerusalem and joins us now.

Hi, Jackie.


SHAPIRO: This situation is moving so quickly. Just bring us up to speed on the latest developments.

NORTHAM: I'll start with Gaza. It's nighttime here, and Israel has launched another air operation. The military says it's targeting and have hit the homes of about five Hamas commanders. It also launched a big attack very early this morning with dozens of warplanes pounding Gaza. And the military says it dropped more than a hundred bombs and rockets in less than half an hour. They demolished small businesses and factories and roads, which could affect humanitarian aid and the economy. But the Israeli military also targeted underground tunnels in Gaza, and they call it the metro system because it's this vast network that Hamas uses to move personnel and equipment and arsenal. And the Israeli military said it managed to destroy about 10 miles of those tunnels today.

SHAPIRO: So that's the situation in Gaza. What's happening in Israel?

NORTHAM: Well, Hamas and other militants lobbed more rockets at Israel. The Israeli military says actually more than 3,000 rockets have been shot into Israel since this latest round of fighting started a week ago, and that's much more than in any previous conflict. Now, most of them get intercepted, but some of them do get through. And at least 10 Israelis have been killed over the past week. So Israelis are still having to take shelter in different places throughout the day. And sometimes, they have as little as 15 seconds to find shelter.

SHAPIRO: Some of the Israeli strikes on Gaza have been particularly intense and are now drawing international scrutiny. Tell us about that.

NORTHAM: Well, there are a couple of things, and one is the attack over the weekend on the building that houses offices for media organizations, and this includes The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. Israel did give a warning, and the building was evacuated before the strike. Israel said Hamas military intelligence infrastructure was in that building but hasn't provided any evidence of that yet, and AP has demanded an independent investigation.

The other thing was a devastating offensive on Gaza over the weekend, which flattened buildings and killed more than three dozen Palestinians, including many women and children. Israel said there were tunnels underneath those buildings. And when they targeted those tunnels, the foundations of the buildings collapsed. And, you know, there were a lot of disturbing images being sent out from Gaza, you know, through social media and that of little kids who had died - and the Palestinians say more than 50. And, you know, this has sparked protests in Europe and the U.S. in support of the Palestinians.

SHAPIRO: So is there any progress at trying to bring this to an end? President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. Is that likely to help bring about a cease-fire?

NORTHAM: President Biden expressed his support for a cease-fire and also called on Israel to ensure the protection of innocent civilians. Pressure has been building on Biden to call for a cease-fire, and that's what Egypt and Qatar and France have been doing. But it's going to come down to whether Hamas stops firing rockets and Israel feels it's done attacking Hamas targets. Netanyahu said earlier that Israel would continue to strike Gaza until basically it's certain that it's crushed Hamas' military capabilities. And he said that will take time.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Jackie Northam bringing us the latest from Jerusalem.

Thank you, Jackie.

NORTHAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.