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Israel-Palestine conflict intensifies as violence escalates

Israeli forces targeted Gaza again on Saturday, striking down a tower housing offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press as well as residences. Hamas militia continued to attack Israeli cities including Tel Aviv, damaging several homes and buildings. Israel has reported at least 7 deaths since the start of this conflict, the toll in Gaza is reported to be at least 126. NPR Correspondent Daniel Estrin joins from Jerusalem.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the conflict, I spoke with NPR Correspondent Daniel Estrin who joined us from Jerusalem earlier today.

    So, Daniel, let's start with the latest, what have you been experiencing in the past few hours?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Well, the latest news is that the Associated Press bureau in Gaza City was flattened in an Israeli attack. The AP bureau was located in a high rise building along with Al Jazeera and other offices. And the owner of the building received a call from the Israeli military notifying him that the building would be attacked and evacuate now. It attacked the building with airstrikes and demolished it. And then later Israel announced that it had done so because Hamas militant intelligence was using the building.

    Now, no one was reported injured in the attack. Israel has also not provided any evidence to support the claim of Hamas using the building. I asked Mark Regev, who is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior adviser, about this, and he said that giving the building one hour's notice was ample warning to get people out. It also gave Hamas a tip, but that it was balancing the need to protect innocent lives with the need to strike military targets. White House spokesman Jen Psaki has said that the White House has spoken directly with Israel, saying that it should ensure the safety and security of journalists. And my former colleague, Farah Sankaram, just yesterday, his own farmhouse was bombed by an Israeli strike. And he wrote that the only place that he felt safe was the Associated Press building, which is now destroyed.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yesterday, there was a strange back and forth if you looked at American headlines about whether or not Israel had sent ground forces into Gaza. What happened?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Well, early Friday morning, it appeared that a ground incursion was happening because not only did we hear, my colleagues in Gaza, heard heavy shelling, artillery fire on the border area, but an Israeli security source told me on the phone that ground troops had entered Gaza. And so NPR reported that news, along with a lot of other major international news organizations.

    However, Israeli media widely reported that, actually, that information was fed to the foreign media as part of a ruse to try to trick Hamas militants into thinking that a ground invasion was happening in order to send them underground into underground tunnels, which then Israel bombed. There are still many questions, despite the Army's insistence that it was a mistake. Still a lot of questions about whether the foreign media was used in a ploy to trick Hamas.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What is the situation like on the ground there in the sense that what happens when you walk out onto the street or if you do to buy groceries?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    In Gaza, nearly every person I speak to, in fact, every person I speak to does not feel safe where they are. They don't know if a rocket is being launched from behind their home, that their area would be targeted. People are talking about organizing their mother, their father, their family to go to a place where they might feel safer, even if they don't know if that is true.

    In Israel, I was in Tel Aviv the other night where the streets, usually busy, totally emptied. It was an eerie quiet because people had rushed to supermarkets to buy groceries and to run back home because Hamas had announced an imminent rocket attack. Not only is there a fear of rockets, a fear of Israeli bombardment, but inside Israel, on the streets of Israel, between neighbors, there is civil unrest and ethnic strife that we have not seen in this country in more than two decades. Neighbors fighting each other on the street. We're talking about mob violence, vandalism to stores, even live fire starts. And it is not the anonymous violence of rockets and airstrikes from warplanes and rocket launchers, we're talking about a very personal street violence between neighbors. And I think that has really shocked people in this country.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Are there any efforts to try to de-escalate? Are there any even talks about talking?

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Well, first, I should say that despite the civil unrest between neighbors, there are efforts between neighbors and innocent people to reach out to each other and to say we support you, Arabs and Jews together. On the greater scale of a fighting and an international mediation, yes, there are intensive, intensive efforts.

    The State Department's Hady Amr, a senior envoy, has arrived in the region. The United Nations Security Council is meeting on Sunday. And we'll look to that to see if there's any resolution or any resolution to the conflict. But at the moment, both sides are indicating that they still are fighting and they are pushing ahead.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NPR's Daniel Estrin joining us from Jerusalem. Thanks so much.

  • Daniel Estrin:

    Thank you for having me.

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