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What it was like on the scene just after an Israeli strike hit a Rafah refugee camp


We begin this hour in Gaza, where, according to Palestinian health officials, the death toll has now passed 18,700 people. Israel continues its military campaign in response to the October 7 Hamas attack that left 1,200 dead. The Israeli military is striking what it says are Hamas targets.


NPR's producer Anas Baba is reporting from Rafah, where the Israeli government said Palestinians should head for safety. On Tuesday, he headed into a refugee camp just after a bomb hit. He was among the first on the scene and helped the injured before he began to report.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: At least, we saw - we witnessed, with my own eyes here, five people that got killed under this rubbles. And the civil defense at the moment is trying to just, like, scavenge underneath all of this rubbles to see exactly who is being stuck underneath it.

SHAPIRO: Rafah is located at the farthest edge of southern Gaza, bordering Egypt. There is nowhere further south to go. Bombing there is daily. Anas Baba describes the refugee camp.

BABA: Al-Shaboura which is - contains the families that got displaced from all of Gaza and Beit Hanoun and all over Gaza Strip from the north just, like, looking for a safe haven in Rafah city.

SUMMERS: One eyewitness, Jihad Abu Rum, heard the sounds of the shelling. He went outside and saw destruction, fire and ash. He starts counting.

JIHAD ABU RUM: (Non-English language spoken).

SUMMERS: He counts up to eight - eight homes, he says. Each home has five families - at least 40 families hit.

SHAPIRO: Haitham Manasseh is an ambulance and emergency director. He says Rafah is being targeted on a daily basis.

HAITHAM MANASSEH: (Non-English language spoken).

SHAPIRO: He says, "these areas are not considered safe anymore. They are areas of intensive bombing, airstrikes and murder." According to the United Nations, almost half of Gaza's population is now in Rafah, without enough food, water or shelter - about 1.2 million people. And the arrival of winter and rain only make things worse.

RUM: (Non-English language spoken).

SUMMERS: "All our friends, neighbors and loved ones are gone," Jihad Abu Rum says. "Their only crime is that they're Palestinians from Gaza." 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.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.