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The latest from Israel: Bombing in areas packed with displaced Gazans

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Israel's offensive in Gaza continues with heavy bombing from the air and troops fighting on the ground. Israeli Air Force fighter jets also attacked a series of targets of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hezbollah has been firing back into northern Israel. United Nations officials are warning of a breakdown in humanitarian aid for more than 2 million Palestinians caught amid all of this fighting. We go now to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who's in Tel Aviv. Hey, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

DETROW: Tell us what you've heard from Gaza today.

BEARDSLEY: Well, the U.N. agency coordinating humanitarian relief in Gaza says they're dealing with a potential for a complete breakdown of public order. Thomas White, head of the U.N. relief agency in Gaza, said, quote, "we are hanging on by our fingertips." NPR heard from its producer in Gaza, Anas Baba. He said the bombing is intense in the southern towns of Khan Younis and Rafah. Rafah is packed with hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans, and he said there's nowhere left to even put a tent. Here he is.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: The humanitarian crisis is getting more and more serious. No food, no drinking water, even no - like, the basics for the babies and the mothers. Just like the diapers, the baby milk.

BEARDSLEY: And you know, Baba said he's been interviewing people who say Hamas has not been affected. They're underground. It's the people who are being killed.

DETROW: Yeah. And on that note, Israel says it's captured hundreds of Hamas militants. And now we have seen images of some of the people captured stripped down to their underwear. What can you tell us about the reaction to that scene?

BEARDSLEY: Well, right. You know, the Arab world has expressed shock and outrage. We actually submitted questions to Israel's Defense Ministry, and they got back to us. And they said, when you're trying to, you know, destroy Hamas' military capabilities in an active combat zone, it's often necessary for detainees to hand over their clothes to make sure they're not concealing weapons or explosive vests. The ministry said detainees are given back their clothes when it's possible to do so and that they said they are treating these individuals in accordance with international law.

But NPR has confirmed at least one of those people in the videos, in the images was a journalist and has heard from people who have actually recognized family members in the group of men, and they say they are definitely not Hamas. My colleague Leila Fadel spoke with a United Nations aid administrator in the U.S., Hani Almadhoun, and when he saw the pictures, he recognized a member of his family. Here's what he told her.

HANI ALMADHOUN: They're a horror show. You know, you see these, and you think, like, oh, there must be some bad people or, you know - and then you see your brother there, just scared for his life, stripped naked in the - close to naked and, you know, in the blistering cold.

BEARDSLEY: So he saw his brother, and he also saw a few of his cousins being held captive. And he says they were picked up in their homes.

DETROW: I mean, what are the Israeli people that you've spoken with saying about the war and all of this?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it's like a split screen, Scott. Israelis and Palestinians are not looking at the same thing. You're not seeing a lot of images of the bombing of Gaza and Palestinian suffering on Israeli TV. As one Israeli woman put it to me, we're certainly not seeing what the rest of the world is seeing. The Israelis are absolutely traumatized by October 7. They still have hostages. They're still sheltering from Hamas rockets. They really see Hamas as an existential threat. I spoke with Israeli scholar Danny Rubenstein, a lifelong Arab specialist who has worked for peaceful coexistence, and here's what he told me.

DANNY RUBINSTEIN: The Jews will tell you that we are very, very hurt by the October 7. You are not - you don't feel our sadness and our pain, and they also say the same - you don't feel any solidarity with the people in Gaza that they are killing all over. So there is less and less understanding between the Jews and Arabs.

BEARDSLEY: And Scott, I think that's the best way to summarize the feelings here.

DETROW: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Tel Aviv. Eleanor, always good to talk to you. Thanks.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you. 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.

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.
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