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Gazans are under siege as Israel retaliates for the massive Hamas attack


Gaza has plunged into darkness.


The 139 square mile enclave is home to more than 2 million Palestinians. It's been under a land, air and sea blockade that has restricted the movement of people and basic goods for some 16 years now, but the territory is now completely blocked off. Israel has cut off food, fuel, water and electricity from entering. The power plant is no longer operating. And this while Israeli forces are continuing airstrikes that have so far killed more than 1,200 Palestinians and wounded 5,800 others. This according to the Gaza Health Ministry. All this is retaliation for the massive and unprecedented attack Hamas launched on Israel Saturday that also killed at least 1,300 people. A ground invasion also appears to be in the works.

MARTÍNEZ: For more on this, we're bringing in our co-host, Leila Fadel, who's on the line from Jerusalem. Leila, what do we know about what's happening inside Gaza right now?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Yeah, I've been calling people overnight and this morning inside, watching the videos that are coming out. And it's not homes reduced to rubble, A, there, it's entire blocks. And among those killed in the airstrikes are entire families. Palestinians in Gaza I've been speaking with say they've been moving from one neighborhood to the next, looking for a place to be safe. But they say there's nowhere safe. They can't find a place. Even U.N. schools where Palestinians typically flee for safety have been hit. Eleven people from the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency have been killed. The crossing into Egypt is closed and has been struck at least three times. And remember, Palestinians can't just leave because there's a siege, so they're trapped, trying to survive.

I spoke to a mother who's giving her baby only half the amount of milk because food is running out. I'm going to play you a bit of a conversation I had this morning with our own NPR producer, Anas Baba, who lives in Gaza.

ANAS BABA: I was forced to leave my job, to leave my work - OK? - and to go to my family in order to evacuate them. I started just to think, where am I going to take them? Where am I going to hide them? Is there any safe place in Gaza? So I took them to another place, which was dangerous, and they transferred them to another place which was more dangerous. So after that, I took them to one of my friend's house just to spend the night. And now I took them back to my own house, to the previous one, to the original.

FADEL: So as you can hear there, people are giving up on trying to find somewhere safe. And just six days into this war, Gaza is already in a deep humanitarian crisis.

MARTÍNEZ: And with no electricity, it's got to be a lot harder, maybe even impossible, really, to reach anyone in there.

FADEL: Yeah. I mean, people are charging their phones in their cars if they have fuel left. They're afraid they'll soon be cut off from the world, which would mean an information blackout. And this is happening at a time when Palestinians inside Gaza are saying the airstrikes are coming with no warning.

MARTÍNEZ: Any sign, Leila, that this is going to let up at all?

FADEL: No. In fact, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says this is just the start. The Israeli army says it's preparing for a ground invasion, which many are speculating means a reoccupation of Gaza. And Palestinians tell me there that they've never seen anything like this. And remember, they've lived through four Gaza wars before this. And just for context, they've also lived under a 16-year blockade. But this time, they say, is different. People are saying they fear that they won't survive, and they feel the international community just doesn't care about their lives. Here's how Palestinian journalist Wajjeh Abu Zarifa, who lives and works inside Gaza, put it.

WAJJEH ABU ZARIFA: We are human. We are part of this world. Don't forget us. Why you allow Israelis to kill us every day without any reasons? We are innocent people, so why Israel destroying our homes? Why is Israel closing the border and not allow anybody to help us? They are punishing the Palestinian people. They are not punishing Hamas, they are killing the civilians.

FADEL: And this is what I heard in one phone call after the next, pleas for help.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Jerusalem. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FELBM'S "BIRKACH") 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.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.