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Israeli soldiers remain inside Gaza's largest hospital in their fight against Hamas

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Israeli soldiers remain inside Gaza's largest hospital today. Hundreds of patients, doctors and evacuees are there, too.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Al-Shifa Hospital was surrounded by gun battles for days. Yesterday, Israeli troops went in. It's part of what Israel says is a deepening invasion into northern Gaza.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, residents in the south of the strip say Israeli forces are dropping leaflets urging evacuations. They're suggesting the ground war in Gaza may soon expand. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been following all this from Tel Aviv. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: What's the latest from Al-Shifa today?

FRAYER: So today, Gaza's health ministry says Israeli troops are searching the underground levels of that hospital. It says they've detained technicians who run equipment there. Israel's military, meanwhile, has been issuing videos produced - highly produced videos with music showing what it says is evidence of militant operations inside Al-Shifa Hospital. Here's one of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JONATHAN CONRICUS: There is a - an AK-47. There are cartridges and ammo. And all of this was hidden very conveniently, secretly, behind the MRI machine.

FRAYER: This is an Israeli military spokesman, Jonathan Conricus, giving a video tour of guns, grenades, uniforms he says Israeli troops found. Now, NPR can't independently verify this. Human rights advocates say what Israel is showing us there doesn't amount to a Hamas command center, which is what Israel has alleged. And they say that even if Hamas did have fighters in there, it doesn't mean Israel can endanger civilians at the hospital.

MARTIN: So that's the situation at the hospital. What about all the people who've been told to leave? Where are they able to go?

FRAYER: Yeah, Michel. Like, Gaza's 2.3 million people are being squeezed into an ever-smaller area in the south of the strip. It's away from the ground invasion, but it's not safe. It is still under Israeli bombardment. NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, went to a school housing displaced people, and he met a 12-year-old girl there named Mariam. She didn't want to give her full name out of fear of reprisals. But she said, you know, she slept in a school. Then, a bomb went off and she had to flee again. And here she is describing what it was like to see her first tank. She's 12 years old.

MARIAM: I was so afraid it come at me. It was so big. And it make me feel so afraid.

FRAYER: Our producer Anas spoke to her parents, too. They were carrying her school certificates. They were super proud because Mariam, they say, had the highest grades in all of Gaza last year. Her family is now in the south of Gaza, which is where Israel told them to flee to. And now leaflets have been falling there telling people to evacuate again. And people are asking, where? Where can they go?

MARTIN: So Israel yesterday allowed fuel into Gaza for the first time since October 7. Do you have any sense of whether that's making any difference?

FRAYER: Not a lot. Israel has earmarked that fuel only for the U.N. and only for transporting aid, so not for things like running water treatment plants and sewage plants and hospitals. Regular folks don't have fuel for cooking. They're scavenging through the wreckage of buildings to find furniture to burn. Here is NPR's producer Anas Baba.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: Now I'm standing on the seventh floor in my friend's house. I kind of smell, like, fire smoke everywhere.

FRAYER: He says people are cooking on open fires in the street. The U.N. says the fuel that Israel has allowed in is not even 10% of what Gaza needs every day. Palestinian officials are warning that Gaza is on the verge of a total communications blackout now for lack of fuel.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Lauren Frayer in Tel Aviv. Lauren, thank you.

FRAYER: Thanks, Michel. 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.
Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.