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One Palestinian man and his family struggle to survive in southern Gaza


Israel's offensive in Gaza continues, with the country saying its aim is to destroy Hamas wherever the group is. An Israeli airstrike yesterday killed at least 21 people, also injuring women and children, according to health officials in Gaza. This was in the south, where thousands of civilians have fled. NPR's Carrie Kahn brings us the story of one man and his family struggling to survive there, with reporting from NPR's producer Anas Baba in Gaza.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: From Rafah city, from Tel al-Sultan neighborhood, it's already 10 a.m.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: In the southwest corner of the Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, producer Anas Baba says tensor everywhere. One cluster catches his attention - seven families sheltering on a small dirt field behind a gate.

BABA: One of them is Mr. Nidal Al Barrawi, 47 years old, with his family of 10 members. Mr. Nidal is going to start to tell us exactly, how was his day in Rafah?

NIDAL AL BARRAWI: (Speaking Arabic).

KAHN: "This is a nightmare I can't wake up from," says Nidal Al Barrawi. He leans against a tall pile of thin mats and folded blankets inside the cargo van where he and most of his family now sleep. The Israeli military ordered his part of northern Gaza to evacuate a couple months ago. Before that, he lived in a three-story home and enjoyed life as a farmer.

AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) My wife used to prepare me coffee, and I then used to go to work. I would feed my cows and go and take care of the rest of my farm.

KAHN: Al Barrawi says he also grew apricots and avocados. He would nap midday, then spend evenings with friends and relatives.

AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) Everything, everything we needed was right by us. Now that is all gone.

KAHN: Much of northern Gaza has been leveled by Israel following Hamas' attack on October 7. Hamas killed around 1,200 people and still hold more than 100 hostages in Gaza. Health officials in Gaza say more than 21,000 Palestinians have been killed, and the U.N. says nearly 2 million are displaced. Al Barrawi's family is among some 100 people. A few in cars - most are in tents. There is no running water, no toilets. He says he's been sick for weeks. Here by the coast, it's cold.

AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) I feel I'm a hundred years old. I'm only 47. Back home, people would tell me how I looked only 30. I feel so fragile now.

KAHN: Fragile since he's lost 20 pounds. His wife, too, is getting skinnier.

AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) A year ago, I bought my wife a ring. To get it off, she would have to use soap. Now it falls off her finger.

KAHN: He tries to water a small olive tree next to the van to remind him of home, but water is scarce. His 14-year-old daughter spends every day in line for a few gallons, not enough for the whole family. UNICEF says children displaced by the war in Gaza get less than half the water needed to survive. His 7-year-old son is dehydrated, and Al Barrawi worries he will die. He says he thinks of death all the time.

AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) I only wish that if I'm to die, I die with all my family. I don't want to die and leave them.

KAHN: Or worse, he says, for him to be the only survivor.

With producer Anas Baba in Gaza, I'm Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZOE KEATING'S "FORTE") 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.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.