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4 weeks after Hamas militants' attack, Israel denies global calls for a cease-fire

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It is four weeks to the day since Hamas-backed militants crossed into southern Israel, where they killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped more than 200 people, according to Israeli officials. Israel's military response has killed more than 9,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials. NPR's Elissa Nadworny is in Tel Aviv. Elissa, thanks for being with us.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Hi, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: And please tell us the latest on what you've been able to see, information you've gotten from Gaza.

NADWORNY: So today, the Israeli military said it would, quote, "avoid hitting" the main road south from Gaza City for three hours so that people trapped in northern Gaza could travel safely south. But by the end of this window, NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, had not encountered anyone in his reporting who was able to use this so-called safe passage. Baba spoke to several drivers there who were helping people frantically trying to leave. They said it was impossible for anyone to make it through on the damaged streets.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: He's saying the roads were filled with holes. There were body parts strewn around. He says they were afraid to keep going because they could hear shooting. And so they turned around and came back. The driver didn't want to use his name because of safety concerns.

Now, the U.N. estimates that there are as many as 300,000 civilians in Northern Gaza, including Gaza City, which Israeli forces have surrounded and where they say Hamas is headquartered.

SIMON: A number of nations are calling for a cease-fire. Pointedly, the United States is not. What's the reasoning?

NADWORNY: Well, the U.S. says Israel has the right to continue its fight against Hamas. American officials have been pushing for what they call a humanitarian pause so aid can reach Gaza. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Jordan today working on that. But Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he rejects any temporary halt to the fight that does not include the release of hostages taken on October 7.

SIMON: Hundreds of people did get out of Gaza this week, a tiny number compared to those seeking to leave. Who's been able to get out?

NADWORNY: So dozens of critically wounded Palestinians were allowed to leave. And that was a major sticking point for Hamas in the negotiation to open up the border. According to U.S. officials, Hamas actually delayed the negotiations by insisting that Hamas wounded fighters be included. Of course, Egypt and Israel were against that, and ultimately, Hamas relented. Hundreds of foreign passport holders have been able to cross into Egypt and out of Gaza since Wednesday. And they're from a range of countries, including the United States. Our producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, has been at the Rafah border crossing each morning. And it was there that he talked with Nada Bushaban (ph). She is a 20-year-old from Houston, Texas, who was in Gaza visiting family. And she was at the crossing with her mom.

NADA BUSHABAN: Although I'm excited to be going home, my heart breaks for the family that I have to leave here. I'm leaving my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, cousins on both sides, my mom's side and my dad's side. So it's quite - it's hard. It is. It's hard.

NADWORNY: Bushaban is a U.S. citizen and was on that list to leave Gaza on Friday.

SIMON: NPR's Elissa Nadworny joining us from Tel Aviv and reporting on today's situation in Gaza. Thanks so much, Elissa.

NADWORNY: Thank you, Scott. Great to be here. 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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.
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