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Israel And Hamas Pause While Kerry Negotiates In Paris


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Israel and Hamas have agreed to a temporary cease-fire after nearly three weeks of fierce conflict. The so-called pause is the result of efforts led by Secretary of State John Kerry. He's currently in Paris, working to try to extend the truce. NPR's Emily Harris is in Gaza. She's been out speaking with people there as they come into the streets and try to get food and medical supplies. Emily, thanks for being with us.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: It's nice to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: What have you seen?

HARRIS: Well, this morning, first we went to the neighborhood of Sujaya, which is in eastern part of Gaza city. And this area came under really heavy Israeli attacks - (unintelligible) and artillery attacks over the weekend in particular. And it's a bit difficult to get in there. Today, people were flooding into Sujaya. There was traffic jams for the first time since this war has been on in that area. People were going to their homes, recovering what they could and then leaving. They were also, if their homes had been hit and destroyed, digging out - trying to find bodies in the rubble. We came across one house that had been crushed. And underneath a slab of concrete, which had landed at an angle to the ground, there was a knot of young men in bare feet and sandals, using hand tools and their hands to try to dig out a third body. They had recovered two bodies already. The wife of one of the men who was killed in that attack was - had recovered in his Quran. It was stained in blood and covered with flies. And she was holding it off to the side in the shade.

SIMON: Is there food? Is there water?

HARRIS: There is food and water. There's not many shops open, but there hasn't been a real food crisis here. The United Nations schools, which are housing 160,000 people as of last night, are facing pressure to get clean drinking water there. A lot of it has to be trucked in. And one problem is some farmers haven't been able to get to their agricultural lands because they're on the edges of Gaza, where the fighting has been. And where the ground invasion - Israeli soldiers have advanced. But there doesn't seem to be a food crisis at the moment.

SIMON: Israeli forces typically send warnings before there's some kind of an attack on a place. And I wonder if people with whom you've spoken plan to use this pause to try and get out of harms way. And if so, where would they go?

HARRIS: Many of the people who I spoke to who had gone back into neighborhoods that were badly damaged - not just Sujaya but also in the north, in the neighborhood where United Nations school was hit a couple days ago. And people there, they're getting their things, and they're heading back to somewhere safe. Usually they're heading back to a United Nations school. But they don't know where they will go from there, especially if their home's destroyed. The U.N., you know, says that this overcrowding of schools - we have, you know, several families, if not more, sharing a classroom, often. This overcrowding can only last for an emergency situation. In the long term, homes - new homes or places for people to stay who've been displaced - is going to be a major problem that Gaza will be facing as soon as its hostilities are actually over.

SIMON: NPR's Emily Harris in Gaza. Thanks so much.

HARRIS: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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