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The latest in Gaza as power, drinking water and medical supplies are running out

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Israel continues airstrikes across Gaza in response to a Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 people last week. Meanwhile, Hamas is holding nearly 200 people, including children, hostage. It is still firing rockets toward Israel. And in Gaza, where more than 2,800 people have been killed, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding. NPR's Aya Batrawy joins us now from Jerusalem. And, Aya, I know it's very difficult to get into Gaza, but you are able to talk to people there. What are you hearing about conditions?

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: I'm hearing about a number of crises unfolding right now for Gaza's 2.3 million residents. The first crisis is water. The taps have run dry. Israel has put Gaza under total siege, which means nothing is coming in and no one can leave. Today we heard the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees say most of its shelters, where hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, don't have any more clean water. Families in Gaza are now relying on potentially contaminated water, even seawater. I reached NPR producer Anas Baba in Gaza, and I asked him if anyone is able to clean or wash themselves.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: No. You need to - you need just to forget showering and forget anything that's, like, the laundry or even washing the dishes. And when it comes to the food - OK? - we only have sandwiches. That's what we have. We don't cook anymore.

BATRAWY: So no drinking water available, no tap water. And now Gaza's main power plant shut down last week, and the territory's relying on whatever fuel was left in generators. But that is especially dangerous for hospitals. Here's what Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the U.N. relief agency, told me today about that.

JENS LAERKE: That is, of course, an enormous crisis if hospitals simply have to flick the switch and turn off life-saving equipment for the patients who are still there.

BATRAWY: So what he's saying is that hospitals that are handling more than 9,000 wounded people are expected to run out of power, fuel and electricity tonight.

KELLY: OK. So meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in Israel. He's been all around the region in recent days doing shuttle diplomacy. Is he making any progress, Aya, either in getting aid into Gaza or trying to de-escalate the war?

BATRAWY: Well, there are hundreds of trucks right now in Egypt waiting at the Rafah Border Crossing with Gaza that are carrying fuel and aid. The U.S. and other Western governments would also like that border crossing to open for some of their citizens trapped in Gaza to get out. But here's what Antony Blinken told reporters today about where things stand.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONY BLINKEN: We're putting in place - with the United Nations, with Egypt, with Israel, with others - the mechanism by which to get the assistance in and to get it to the people who need it.

BATRAWY: So while they're talking about these mechanisms, we have the roads destroyed in many areas and a cease-fire that would need to come into place to be agreed upon for the aid to get in. And Israel's prime minister's office said this morning there's no such deal in place. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled south of Gaza - to the south of Gaza after warnings from Israel. They were on foot, with kids, packed into cars. But many also can't leave. And even in the south, there are still airstrikes there that have killed families in their homes. And Palestinians say close to 900 children have been killed in Gaza.

KELLY: And timeline? What is Israel saying about how long this war could take?

BATRAWY: Well, Israel's prime minister said this war is going to take time, and it's only the beginning of its response to the attacks. And we know there are hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops at the border with Gaza, preparing for an imminent ground invasion. Emotions here are still very raw. In particular, families are grieving and shocked. But, look, Israel says it is going to wipe out Hamas. And now the question is whether this war and ground troops can eliminate Hamas, and how much that will endanger the 2 million Palestinians still in Gaza.

KELLY: NPR's Aya Batrawy reporting in Jerusalem. Thank you.

BATRAWY: 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.

Aya Batrawy
Aya Batraway is an NPR International Correspondent based in Dubai. She joined in 2022 from the Associated Press, where she was an editor and reporter for over 11 years.