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During Cease-Fire, Gaza Left With Pain And Destruction


It is Day 2 of a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and so far it is holding. Gaza suffered the most damage from the 11 days of fighting. And people there are only now surveying the destruction. Israeli airstrikes there against what the Israeli military said were Hamas targets and tunnels killed more than 240 Palestinians. In Israel, 12 people were killed. Yesterday, Israel opened its border crossing to allow foreign journalists to enter Gaza for the first time since the fighting. And NPR's Daniel Estrin is there now. Hi, Daniel. Thanks so much for joining us.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: So what does Gaza look like right now?

ESTRIN: Well, Palestinians are finally emerging from their homes. They were holed up for 11 days of very intense bombardment. They were barely sleeping. And now they're visiting relatives, which they could not do last week on the Eid holiday, which comes at the end of Ramadan. Now they're wearing their holiday best, visiting family and the rhythm of life is back.

I'm looking out at the sea now. I'm hearing the call to prayer in the mosques and cars, people walking on the promenade, but also people are venturing out and seeing all the damage. And you see an intact building standing next to a complete pile of rubble. And you have teams clearing rubble and also clearing out unexploded missiles.

MARTIN: So how will Gaza be able to recover from all the destruction that you've just described and that you've been seeing all day? What's it going to take to rebuild? How is that going to happen?

ESTRIN: That is a huge question. Reconstruction is at the center of the cease-fire talks that are starting up now. We are told that 1,800 homes, at least, have been destroyed and many thousands homeless. Egypt is a key mediator. They have pledged aid money. But getting the money and getting the building materials into Gaza is going to be tricky because Israel leads a blockade on Gaza, and it restricts what kind of building materials can get in and where they go. It says that Hamas could take cement and pipes, for instance, and use them to rebuild militarily.

So Israel is going to be very concerned with what kind of building materials get in. There's going to be a debate about which Palestinian group handles the funds coming in. Will it be the Palestinian Authority, or will it be Hamas, which is actually in control of Gaza? And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is coming to the region in a few days. He's going to be involved in these talks.

MARTIN: So what kinds of attitudes are you finding among the Palestinians that you've been able to speak with in Gaza after all this?

ESTRIN: Almost everyone I'm meeting in the streets are praising Hamas, praising resistance. We've seen masked militants stage victory rallies and marches. Yesterday, I saw a little child dressed up as a fighter revering Hamas and revering the armed fighters who fought this 11-day battle. And people are looking at the rubble. And passersby as I'm standing there will come to me and say, look at what the Israelis have done, and they call us the terrorists.

MARTIN: But what about people who have lost loved ones? Is it the same?

ESTRIN: That is an entirely different scene. I was at the site of several homes, buildings, apartment buildings that were reduced to rubble where entire families and sections of families have been killed. And people there are just talking about their pain and their loss.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Daniel Estrin. He is in Gaza, and he's reporting from there now. Daniel, thanks so much for talking to us.

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

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.