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The latest on the war between Israel and Hamas

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Intense bombardments and Israeli ground operations in the Gaza Strip continue as Hamas launches rockets into Israel. But there are talks underway for some sort of pause.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah. Negotiations appear to be taking place between Israel and Hamas. All this as the death toll in Gaza will soon reach 20,000 people according to the health ministry there. And that's not to mention the tens of thousands more people that are wounded in the midst of this dire, humanitarian crisis.

FADEL: Joining us to discuss all this from Tel Aviv is NPR's Jason DeRose. Good morning, Jason.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So what can you tell us about these talks?

DEROSE: Well, diplomats from Israel and Qatar, backed by the U.S., have been meeting in Europe to work out some sort of a deal, according to U.S. officials. Also, Hamas says that one of its senior leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, was in Cairo on Wednesday, and Egypt has been playing a role in ceasefire talks, too. Hamas is still believed to be holding more than 100 Israeli hostages, and Israel wants them back. And you'll recall during the first cease-fire, Hamas released hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during each day of the pause. Now, at the same time, the U.N. Security Council is trying to pass a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in fighting. A vote on that continues to be delayed over language acceptable to the U.S. in order to avoid a U.S. veto.

FADEL: I mean, in the backdrop of all this, there is a war and loss of life. I mean, it has there been any letup in Gaza as these talks happen?

DEROSE: Fighting has been intense. Heavy shelling from Israel by air and land and sea. We mentioned the 20,000-milestone death toll. The U.N. says the most intense shelling is in the Beit Lahia and Gaza City in the north, in Khan Yunis in the east and Rafah in the south. Israeli military says dozens of aircrafts attacked about 230 targets in Gaza yesterday, and the humanitarian crisis there is worsening due to a lack of food and water and power. Now, the Israeli military says it's uncovered something of a command center in one of those underground tunnels we hear so much about. Those are tunnels Hamas uses to move people and equipment and supplies around Gaza. Israeli leaders say one of the main objectives of this war is to destroy those tunnels as part of its overall goal to destroy Hamas after the October 7 attacks that killed some 1,200 people. And while all of this is going on, rockets continue to be launched from Gaza and Southern Lebanon into Israel. Air raid sirens go off pretty regularly here.

FADEL: Now, I understand you've been reporting on a specific incident, a shooting at a church in Gaza. What can you tell us about that?

DEROSE: Well, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem says two women sheltering at Holy Family Parish in Northern Gaza were shot and killed by a sniper. The church says it was an Israeli sniper, but it didn't go into detail about how it knew this. Bishop William Shomali says there's also been shelling of the church compound.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM SHOMALI: The Israeli army is - flattened all the area around the parish. People cannot go outside of the compound because they can be killed.

DEROSE: The pope has even talked about the shooting and the shelling and refer to them as terrorism. The Israeli military says it was performing an operation nearby when the incident took place, but they say their investigation doesn't show they were responsible for the killing of the women. Now, there are only two churches in all of Gaza. Holy Family Parish, where the shooting took place, has about 500 people taking refuge there. There are only about a thousand Palestinian Christians who live in Gaza, and there's real concern this war could mean the end of the Christian community there.

FADEL: That's NPR's Jason DeRose in Tel Aviv. Thank you for your reporting, Jason.

DEROSE: 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.

Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.