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Civilian Death Toll Continues To Rise Amid Israeli-Palestinian Crisis

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And now to Tel Aviv and to descriptions of the fighting that is playing out in Israel and Gaza. Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rocket fire on Israel continue to rain down on the streets and on people. At least 65 people have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza, including some senior Hamas militants, but also women and children. In Israel, at least six people have died, including a soldier, women and a teenaged girl. And while there have been wars between Hamas and Israel before, the last one in 2014, this is escalating more quickly and is taking turns previously unseen.

NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Tel Aviv and joins us now. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So this now is the third day of really intense airstrikes and rocket fire. Can you just bring us up to speed on everything as it stands now?

ESTRIN: Well, in brief, rocket fire from Gaza continued through the day, anti-missile systems intercepted dozens of them. But it was unprecedented in terms of such a large barrage of rockets fired deep into Israel, toward the greater Tel Aviv area and other cities, so many Israelis were hearing air raid sirens throughout the day and running into bomb shelters. In Gaza, Palestinians don't have air raid sirens or bomb shelters. And Israeli warplanes continued their bombing campaign. Israel destroyed some multi-story buildings. It says it killed several high-ranking militants, including some responsible for rockets. And the U.S. is sending State Department envoy Hady Amr to the region. And we are also hearing reports that many U.S. airlines have canceled flights to Tel Aviv.

CHANG: If you could just stay in the situation in Gaza, what are you hearing from people as they're describing what is happening?

ESTRIN: Well, Israel closed its border crossing with Gaza. Journalists cannot enter Gaza now, but NPR works with Palestinian journalist there. He was at the hospital, and he sent a recording of what it sounded like. Have a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOMBS EXPLODING)

ESTRIN: He said those are booms of Israeli bombing nearby, and he was watching the wounded being wheeled in. And he met Mazen Halifa (ph), who was mourning the death of his 20-year-old son, Yahya (ph) Here he is.

MAZEN HALIFA: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: He's calling out God's name. He says, what are they doing with the children? And he tells us that his son was on his way to the supermarket to get groceries and sweets for the Muslim Eid holiday, which is tomorrow. And on his way, an Israeli airstrike hit the car in front of him. And he said his son died on the operating table. So that's just one example of the anguish in Gaza right now, especially at a time that should be joyous, the Eid holiday coming up tomorrow.

CHANG: Yeah. Meanwhile, I understand you've been in places in Israel that have been hit by rocket fire. Can you just tell us what you're finding?

ESTRIN: Many homes in several cities have been hit, and I went to one of those homes outside the city of Lod, near the Israeli airport. I smelled the charred remains of the car parked outside. And in the entrance, I saw the photos of the two victims, a man and his 16-year-old daughter, both killed. They are among the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian Arabs. And in that area - I spent several hours in the area talking with residents, Jewish and Arab - they live side by side. I met one Jewish woman who runs a supermarket with an Arab citizen. Her name is Lina Karaov (ph). And she was smoking outside, and she told me this.

LINA KARAOV: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She says, "I'm thinking of kids in Gaza, about Arab kids in Israel, our kids. She says, it hurts me. I see no future of peace. Kids are growing up on hate on both sides."

CHANG: And I understand a curfew has been imposed in that area. Why is that?

ESTRIN: Well, because all these tensions have ignited civil unrest in that city and many other cities. Backing up, an Arab man, several days ago, was shot and killed allegedly by a Jewish man. There were protests by Arabs, rampages. A cemetery, synagogue were torched. And now this evening we're seeing scenes of gangs, Jewish crowds, many of them, roaming the streets, smashing windows of an Arab-owned store in one place. These are scenes that we have not seen in previous Israel-Gaza wars, and it is extremely worrying.

CHANG: That is NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv, Israel. Thank you so much, Daniel.

ESTRIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.