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Israel's military is trying to push back militants who attacked multiple towns


The weekend attack on Israel by hundreds of Hamas fighters has touched off a war with heavy casualties.


Israeli media say fighters associated with Hamas killed at least 700 people in their homes, at a dance festival, on the streets, in army bases. Videos show militants rounding up men, women and children, taking them from southern Israel and moving them to Gaza. Israel has launched airstrikes into Gaza, killing more than 400 people there. And this is only the beginning. A third day of war is underway.

MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin is with us now from Tel Aviv. Daniel, hello.


MARTIN: So it just seems as if there are new developments every hour. What can you tell us about what's been going on there this morning?

ESTRIN: I mean, just a few seconds ago, Michel, I heard very loud booms out the window here in Tel Aviv. There have been sirens - air raid sirens - rocket fire towards central Israel. But the army told reporters this morning that Israeli troops were still battling Hamas militants in at least seven Israeli residential communities; one Israeli family was still being held hostage by Hamas men; and that Hamas militants still continued to infiltrate from Gaza into Israel.

MARTIN: Do we know anything about how many hostages there are?

ESTRIN: Israel's saying at least dozens are being held hostage in Gaza. There are reports that that could be even more. And many Israelis simply don't know - are their relatives dead? are they taken captive? - and especially when it comes to this dance festival - a rave - this weekend that Hamas attacked. There are reports here of at least 260 people killed there, which would be the deadliest single attack on civilians in Israel ever. I spoke with Ahuva Maisel (ph). Her 21-year-old daughter, Adi (ph), was at that festival, and she's missing.

AHUVA MAISEL: I don't know if she's alive. I don't know if she's dead. I don't know if she's hurt. I know nothing. I don't know if somebody captured her. We started getting phone calls, like, from Arabs, from Hamas, that they are keeping my daughters. And they say that they have my daughter, my beautiful daughter, and I hear screaming of girls.

ESTRIN: She doesn't know if those are fake calls. But we've been speaking to other Israelis who have received videos of their loved ones captive inside Gaza. There's just a lot of confusion about what happened. Israeli authorities aren't publishing a lot. They're not publishing the names of civilians killed or missing. It's Hamas, Michel, that's putting out the stream of videos.

MARTIN: And Israel has been launching heavy airstrikes on Gaza. There are 2 million people there. People are in tight quarters. It's dense. What are they facing?

ESTRIN: Well, they're facing no electricity in Gaza City since yesterday. Electricity has been cut there because of the Israeli bombings. And Gaza's main hospital says it's running low on supplies. Israel bombed at least a thousand targets in Gaza, including many mosques overnight. And our producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, visited one of them. The minaret was completely toppled onto about a dozen neighboring homes. And as he was walking through the rubble, he found one man, Mohammed Nisman (ph). He was scavenging what he could from his home. And he said that he was in bed at night when pieces of the wall fell on him in the Israeli attack.

MOHAMMED NISMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: He told us he escaped with his family, but five neighbors of his were killed. And he said that they got no warning from Israel's army, which - sometimes the Israeli army does give warnings to Gaza civilians before they attack. In a briefing, an Israeli army spokesman was asked about that and said Israel's trying to avoid civilian casualties. But at the same time, he said Hamas didn't give Israel a warning about its attacks and that, quote, "Israel has to change our paradigm."

MARTIN: That is NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. 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.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.