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What Gaza Looked Like On The 1st Day Of Cease-Fire

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After days of bomb blasts and the whoosh of rocket fire, these were some of the sounds in the Gaza Strip today.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN LAUGHING)

SHAPIRO: Kids playing in a video game shop on the first day of cease-fire, after 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas - 12 people died in Israel from more than 4,000 rockets fired by militants in Gaza. Israel responded with waves of airstrikes that Gazan officials say killed at least 240 people. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Gaza City and joins us now.

Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: You know, as a sign of how much things have changed in the last day, this is the first time foreign journalists were allowed in Gaza since the fighting began. So give us some idea of what it looks like and what you saw when you went in today.

ESTRIN: We drove in from the border crossing, and we saw - it was strange to see buildings intact. And then right next to them, all of a sudden you see a flattened building. One of them looked like a layer cake, just one story stacked on top of the other. And then we saw families walking together in the streets, dressed up in fancy clothes. They were wearing their holiday clothes for Eid, the Muslim holiday that started last week. But they weren't able to visit their relatives on the holiday last week during war, so they were celebrating today. And we saw this one family - three daughters, a mother and a father - all dressed in pink, in matching outfits. And we spoke to them in the street. And this is the mother, 30-year-old Tahani (ph).

TAHANI: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She says, "we're finally leaving our houses. We're going out in the streets to celebrate this holiday, to visit our relatives. And we are seeing with our own eyes the pain and the destruction."

SHAPIRO: You also went to the scene of what appears to be the biggest casualty incident we know of so far. Tell us what you saw there.

ESTRIN: This was on Al-Wahde Street (ph). This is where Israeli airstrikes killed more than 40 people, according to Gaza officials. This includes multiple relatives from the same extended families. A few buildings on the same street that collapsed - families were buried alive. Israel says it was attacking a militant tunnel deep underground and that the building's foundations collapsed. I cannot confirm that independently, but what I saw was a high-end neighborhood in Gaza. The parallel street is a fancy street they call the Champs-Elysees, like the fancy street in Paris - lots of shops. And then Al-Wahde Street is a tall wall of rubble where apartments stood. And this is what I recorded when I was there.

I see clumps of mattress. There's a sofa smushed underneath a big piece of cement. A shirt, a bra, a sheet - all of this in the rubble.

One of the men who was killed there is Dr. Ayman Abu al-Ouf (ph). He was handling COVID in Gaza's main hospital, and the hospital says he was trapped in the rubble, died with his wife, father, mother, son and daughter.

SHAPIRO: What are people saying about the idea of who won or lost this battle?

ESTRIN: Well, the people I met today said Gaza was victorious. I went to a video game shop. I met a gamer there who said that the war had some accomplishments. His name is Hossan Meshur (ph).

HOSSAN MESHUR: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said that Hamas and Palestinians were defending Jerusalem, the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque, a neighborhood where Israel was set to evict Palestinians. And despite those, what he called, accomplishments, he said, we don't deserve all this death and destruction in Gaza.

SHAPIRO: The destruction is going to require a lot of rebuilding. What is the outlook for that?

ESTRIN: Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. And right now what they're doing is they're just marking the rubble with signs, saying, this is my store. This is the phone number of the owner so that they can be found, you know, when aid hopefully comes for them and they can be rebuilt. And then there are the unexploded ordinances. When we were on that Wahda Street, we saw militants overseeing the site and workers removing two large missiles that were unexploded, and we took off really quickly. So there's going to be a lot of very dangerous cleanup.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Gaza City.

Thanks a lot.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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