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The latest on the war between Israel and Hamas

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, visits Israel today. He is there as the Biden administration continues to urge Israel to scale back its air and ground campaign in Gaza.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The U.S. wants Israel to more carefully target Hamas and its leaders, as the death toll in Gaza stands at nearly 19,000. That's according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

MARTIN: For more, we're joined by NPR's Kat Lonsdorf, who is in Tel Aviv. Kat, Good to talk with you.

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: Hey, Michel.

MARTIN: So let's start with the situation in Gaza. What can you tell us?

LONSDORF: Well, it's been really, really difficult to get information here. And that's because there was an extended communications blackout in Gaza for the past four days or so. That's no cell service, no internet. Now, comms were partially restored last night. We finally heard from our producer there, Anas Baba, who is safe, which was a huge relief, but comms are really still shaky. We have been able to get some information, both from groups in Gaza, but also from the Israeli military.

For example, the military confirmed yesterday that they have completed a four-day what they called raid on the Kamal Adwan Hospital in the north in Gaza City. The Israeli military claims the hospital had been, quote, "used by Hamas as a major command center" and that weapons had been seized there. But I should note that the situation at Kamal Adwan was already extremely dire. A senior doctor there earlier described to NPR a stream of wounded patients with complex injuries who have overwhelmed the hospital, which was also being used as a shelter for thousands of people. We've been unable to reach that doctor for several days as well. And this is all as intense fighting continues and more and more people are fleeing to the south, which is becoming severely overcrowded.

MARTIN: Yes. Can you tell us any more about the humanitarian situation there?

LONSDORF: Yeah. I mean, it's really bad. In and around Rafah city, where people have been told by Israel to flee, there are now about a million people, or nearly half of Gaza's population. Some are staying in tents. Many people are staying in apartments packed with more than 50 people in them, making it really hard to maintain, you know, any kind of sanitary conditions. So disease is spreading, according to the World Health Organization, and food is really hard to come by.

Now, there is some good news. Israel opened a second crossing for aid yesterday, the Kerem Shalom crossing, which crosses in and out of Israel and Gaza. And a few dozen aid trucks, did get in through there, as well as the aid that has been coming in through Rafah crossing from Egypt. But, you know, aid groups say that's just not nearly enough coming in.

MARTIN: And let me just ask about the big news in Israel over the weekend, was the three Israeli hostages...

LONSDORF: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Who were mistakenly shot and killed by Israeli troops. What are you hearing about that where you are?

LONSDORF: Yeah. I mean, people were really shocked here when that news broke on Friday night. You know, the three hostages were all Israeli, all men in their 20s, and they were killed on Friday in an active combat area in northern Gaza. The men were dressed in civilian clothes and waving a white cloth, walking toward Israeli soldiers when they were shot, according to a preliminary report by the Israeli military. A military spokesman said that the shootings were against the army's rules of engagement and were being investigated at the highest level.

But, you know, people here are upset. There have been protests here in Tel Aviv this weekend with people, you know, increasingly calling and demanding for a new hostage deal or, you know, even a permanent cease-fire. And the families of the hostages were already putting a lot of pressure on the government, saying that these hostages have to be the top priority. And those calls are getting even louder now. They've started camping out 24/7 in front of the war cabinet building here in Tel Aviv until a new deal is reached, they say.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Kat Lonsdorf from Tel Aviv. Kat, thank you so much.

LONSDORF: 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.

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.