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A look at the humanitarian crisis wrought by Israel-Hamas war

Correction: In this segment, we referred to Refaat Alareer as “Refaat Aljareer” on first mention. We also mistakenly referred to Diana Mushtaha as attending the University of Houston, instead of the University of Texas. NewsHour regrets the errors.

John Yang reports on life on the ground for Palestinians and Israelis caught in the crossfire of war, and how US pressure on the region’s leaders has affected civilians, and Middle Eastern immigrant communities in the US.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Now to life on the ground for Palestinians and Israelis caught in the crossfire of war.

    Here again is John Yang.

  • John Yang:

    Night after night, Israeli airstrikes light up Gaza's sky. Morning after morning, Palestinians living in the densely populated strip of land search through the wreckage.

  • Fikr Shalltoot:

    When you lie in your bed, you just start to think and know that you may not wake up or, if you wake up, you will be under rubble.

  • John Yang:

    Fikr Shalltoot runs Gaza programming for the U.K.-based group Medical Aid For Palestinians. She says essential medical services have come to a halt. According to the U.N., Israeli airstrikes have damaged at least 17 of Gaza's 76 hospitals and medical clinics.

  • Fikr Shalltoot:

    All these services is interrupted, not only because of the destruction of these centers, but also because the lack of safety.

    People are unable to move. The roads are destructed in Gaza, and the people are hesitant even to move outside because they are risking their lives.

  • Eitan Singer:

    We feel like a war zone. When you look at the sky, almost every evening, it's unbelievable. If you want to go to Disneyland, it may look like fireworks, but we're not in Disneyland.

  • John Yang:

    Miles to the north, in Tel Aviv, technology executive Eitan Singer worries about his children.

  • Eitan Singer:

    I have a small daughter. And I tell her that this is Israel. This is a tough neighborhood. Sometimes, we have conflicts. Sometimes, people do not agree with our side.

    But when people are — or countries or terrorists are fighting us, we defend.

  • John Yang:

    For almost two weeks, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, damaging Israeli homes and property. At least 12 Israelis have been killed.

    Last week, Hamas rockets killed two women in the Southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. In return, Israel has struck Gaza with artillery and airstrikes, killing more than 200 Palestinians and leveling apartment blocks, as they seek to blunt Hamas' military capabilities and disrupt a network of tunnels that Israelis say is used to hide fighters and move weapons.

    Just this week, a child, bleeding, but alive, was among those pulled from the rubble after an airstrike that killed her mother and four siblings. She'd been trapped for seven hours.

    The 11-day conflict has aggravated Gaza's worsening humanitarian situation. The territory faces an indefinite blockade from Israel and Egypt and an unemployment rate near 50 percent. The U.N. says more than 70,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began.

    Many have found shelter in U.N.-run schools. Israeli airstrikes destroyed water pipes serving more than 800,000 people. And 600,000 students are missing class after Israeli airstrikes damaged their schools.

    Refaat Aljareer (ph) is a professor of English literature in Gaza City, where he lives with his wife and six children. He spoke to the "NewsHour" by phone after his building lost power.

  • Refaat Alareer:

    As a father and an educator in Gaza, I fear for everything, for the repeated aggression to come from Israel.

    I can't provide safety and security for my kids. We don't like to go out to the shops, even downstairs, because you don't know what's going to happen next. We decided five, six days ago to try to ration, to eat as little as possible, two meals, instead of three, so, if it goes even crazier than this, we can stay longer with what little food we have.

  • John Yang:

    President Biden has publicly supported Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas rockets.

    Yesterday, though, the White House said that, in a phone call, the president told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expected a significant de-escalation on the path to a cease-fire.

    Shortly afterward, Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with the military operation. But, tonight, his security council approved a cease-fire.

    Palestinian-American Diana Mushtaha is a senior at the University of Houston. This semester, she is living with her family in Gaza. Every night, they sleep in their windowless apartment corridor. Mushtaha is critical of U.S. military aid to Israel. In fiscal year 2019, the United States provided more than $3 billion in aid.

  • Diana Mushtaha:

    I love my country. I love both of my countries. But, right now, one side of me is literally fighting the other. Like, it's — it hurts to know that our tax dollars are paying for what I'm seeing here.

  • John Yang:

    She says her younger cousins can now tell how far away a strike is from their apartment.

  • Diana Mushtaha:

    Even the kids, they have started to distinguish between: Oh, I heard that one from the right area. Oh, that one was far.

    And they will reassure each other that that one was far. Don't worry. Don't get scared.

  • Dani Rachamim:

    I believe that Israel don't want to hurt children and women.

  • John Yang:

    Less than half-a-mile from the Gaza border, Dani Rachamim lives with his wife on an Israeli kibbutz.

    He says the fighting has prevented him from tending to his farm. But he supports the Israeli army and believes they are rightfully targeting Hamas fighters.

  • Dani Rachamim:

    They want to hurt the Hamas terrorists. That, I know for sure, everyone in Israel knows, that the Hamas hide, they hide the children to protect themselves. Our army is a moral army. But, in war, things happen.

  • John Yang:

    In 2019, the "NewsHour"'s Ryan Chilcote spoke with him about living so close to Gaza.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Has the stress of living here affected any of your kids?

  • Dani Rachamim:

    Yes. My little daughter, she's in post-trauma.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    PTSD.

  • Dani Rachamim:

    When there is a siren, she has all her body shaking for a long time.

  • John Yang:

    Speaking from his bomb shelter now, Rachamim acknowledged the discrepancies between Gaza and Israel.

  • Dani Rachamim:

    When my child were much younger, yes, 12 years old, 13 years old, I told them: "We sit now in our bomb shelter. You know that there is no bomb shelters for the children in Gaza?"

    They were in shock.

  • John Yang:

    Back in Gaza, Alareer says he worries about his family's future, but he says he believes their aspirations are shared by communities worldwide.

  • Refaat Alareer:

    We believe our struggle is part of a global struggle, the historical struggle around the world of the indigenous peoples around the world.

    We share the struggle with our brothers and sisters with Black Lives Matter and those people suffering from systematic and institutional discrimination.

  • John Yang:

    And now, with a cease-fire, both Gazans and Israelis can catch their breaths, assess the damage, and see how long the quiet lasts.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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