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Israel intensifies its offensive on Gaza with no signs of another truce

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The Israeli offensive is intensifying in southern Gaza. Israel claims to have hit more than 400 Hamas targets, and the Gazan health ministry claims more than 15,000 people have been killed since the start of the war, with a large proportion of those being women and children. The warring sides show no sign of reviving their truce, which lasted seven days and collapsed on Friday morning. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Tel Aviv. Hey, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ayesha.

RASCOE: What's the status for at least having conversations about reviving a cease-fire?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it's pretty much dead. Talks for doing so broke down yesterday in Qatar. And in dueling statements, Israel and Hamas each blamed the other. Hamas also says it will not negotiate any more hostage-prisoner exchanges until Israel's attack on Gaza ends. So it isn't looking good. Meanwhile, the Israeli army insists it is taking care to protect civilians. It has published an interactive map that it says shows civilians how to get to safer areas, but there are now more than 2 million people packed into an even smaller area, and borders are closed. Hamas is warning of an impending sanitary crisis with the spread of disease on top of the death from Israeli bombs. And NPR spoke with one Gazan, Jumana Shaheen, about this. Here she is.

JUMANA SHAHEEN: I think we are about to face a big environmental crisis. Like, the streets are full of garbage, and there is no other way or place that people can put it.

BEARDSLEY: Shaheen says she has evacuated from four different places already. She said the truce offered people a small respite, but now they're packing their bags again to move, but they don't really know where to go.

RASCOE: There are increasing calls from the U.S. for Israel to show more restraint. What's the latest on that?

BEARDSLEY: Well, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called it a moral responsibility for Israel to protect civilians. And speaking from Dubai at the climate summit yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris said Israel has the right to go after Hamas, but it does matter how. Here she is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: As Israel pursues its military objectives in Gaza, we believe Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians.

RASCOE: You've been out talking with Israelis. What are you hearing from them?

BEARDSLEY: Well, last night in Tel Aviv, there was a massive rally to bring the remaining hostages home. More than a hundred are still being held in Gaza. And people there were very upset that the cease-fire ended. There's also a real feeling that the world has not really recognized Israel's trauma after October 7. I spoke to 30-year-old Omri Shtivi, the older brother of Idan Shtivi, who's still being held hostage...

OMRI SHTIVI: The only priority for me, for all the families, is to bring them back - all of them, all the hostages - all, all, all. Right now, this is our only priority. We don't care about politics. We care about life. We want to save life.

BEARDSLEY: ...And 18-year-old Galy Shamir, who was there with her parents at the rally.

GALY SHAMIR: And I'm here just to raise awareness because I think that this should be just known everywhere across the world, and the world should really take action. And, I mean, it's absolutely unbelievable.

BEARDSLEY: Unbelievable, she says, that the world has not paid more attention to the October 7 massacre and the hostage situation.

RASCOE: And you were also in the Israeli-occupied West Bank this weekend, where I understand there's been more violence.

BEARDSLEY: Yes. And, you know, the West Bank is a place controlled by Israel since 1967 with a large Palestinian population. And it's sort of - it's really dissected with a wall and with checkpoints and certain roads that are only for the army and Israeli settlers. Palestinians there told me life has always been difficult under what they call the occupation. But since October 7, they say it's unbearable. They say roads are blocked. Checkpoints are closed. More roads are blocked. And, of course, Israel says it needs the heightened security after what happened. But Palestinians I spoke with say Israeli soldiers are acting with impunity. I was in the town of Beitunia, where a young boy was recently killed, and I spoke with 18-year-old Mohammed Shauaibi about the tense situation. Here's what he said.

MOHAMMED SHAUAIBI: (Speaking Arabic).

BEARDSLEY: "We could be walking in the street and take an Israeli bullet for no reason," he told me. "We cannot guarantee our life." He told me he does not want to stay here. He would like to travel anywhere where there's no occupation and a better life. And Israeli human rights organizations say scores of Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since October 7.

RASCOE: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, thank you so much for joining us.

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.