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Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire, Reached Last Week, Continues To Hold

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Israel and Hamas have arrived at the next step in their cycle of violence, the cleanup after a short war. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to the Mideast this week to help mediate what happens from here. And we have a view today of the destruction in Gaza. We reached NPR's Daniel Estrin there a bit earlier.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What have you been seeing?

ESTRIN: Well, I've been seeing Palestinians try to get back to their lives. I was at a coffee shop last night. I saw young men playing cards. And friends were hugging and reuniting. You know, they'd spent days huddled at home during the war. And because Gaza is under blockade, people couldn't easily flee the war. And so now they're going out at night. It's a form of escape. I've also seen masked Hamas militants parading down the street with guns, declaring victory. And I've seen a lot of Palestinians just going to visit the sites where buildings were destroyed.

INSKEEP: I've seen some of the pictures, Daniel, and short war doesn't really seem to take it in. I mean, this is pretty severe destruction in places.

ESTRIN: Yeah. And the bombings were scattered throughout Gaza. So when you drive around in Gaza City, you'll see, for instance, two intact buildings. But then in the middle of them, there's a big pile of rubble where an entire building used to be. You also see roads bombed, cracks and craters in main roads. Israel says it was targeting underground Hamas tunnels that fighters use. And I've asked a Hamas spokesman about that. He doesn't deny they have tunnels, but they just haven't really spoken much about them. In one of those strikes, three apartment buildings on the same street collapsed. And that, I think, is the most painful thing that I've seen on this visit. It's an upscale neighborhood. No one ever expected it to be targeted.

A young woman I met was trapped under rubble. She lost 22 members of her extended family. And then I've met Palestinians seeking shelter with the U.N., needing new homes. One woman - I'll introduce you to her - Tahrir Kaskin (ph), 32-year-old mother sleeping in a U.N. school classroom. She lost - she says she lost her home in the very last Israeli strike before the cease-fire. Let's listen.

TAHRIR KASKIN: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She was crying. And she said, "they took everything from us, leaving nothing to us, just our memories. If they rebuild our house, they're not going to rebuild our souls and our memories and our pain."

INSKEEP: But there is the matter of rebuilding something. How does - where does Gaza go from here?

ESTRIN: Gaza probably needs hundreds of millions of dollars to to rebuild. The U.N. says 1,800 apartments and businesses need rebuilding. There's water, sanitation, electricity - all that infrastructure needs repair. You know, the U.N. says that they're only now getting close to finishing rebuilding from the last war seven years ago. And Palestinians say that this time, the Israeli bombardment was even more forceful than the last war. It's going to be tricky getting building materials in, Steve, because Israel wants to make sure that Hamas does not use materials and cement to rebuild militarily. There's going to be a very strict system. And the Israeli defense minister says Israel is going to leave Gaza on a, quote, "basic humanitarian level," not more, and condition more aid on kind of fuzzy political goals like weakening Hamas.

INSKEEP: Daniel, we've really appreciated your reporting from both sides of the battle lines these last few weeks. Thanks very much. Be safe.

ESTRIN: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: Daniel Estrin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.