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The harrowing stories from Palestinians after 3 days of fighting in Gaza


OK. Now we'll look at the recovery in the Gaza Strip and some of the harrowing stories from Palestinians after three days of fighting last weekend. The power is back on, but even as life resumes, people are still recalling the weekend of rapid evacuations and brushes with death. Just one year ago, 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants left vast damage. This time around, the damage was more limited, but it's a reminder that the cycle of violence continues. NPR's Fatma Tanis joins us now from Gaza City. Hi, Fatma.


CHANG: So can you tell us, what is it like there today?

TANIS: Right. So electricity is back here in Gaza. It comes from fuel that's trucked in from Israel. You know, Gaza's borders are controlled by Egypt and Israel. And Israel restricts imports to Gaza, which they say is for security. Now, this conflict was mainly between Israel and the Islamic Jihad militants. The much bigger militant group, Hamas, which controls Gaza, stayed out of it. And that seems to have made it easier for goods to come back quickly.

And so today stores are just getting supplies back. Because of the lack of electricity, the produce that's already in Gaza went bad. And one shop owner told me it was just in time as they had started running out of the essentials, like flour, milk and sugar. Of course, for the people who lost family members or homes, they're trying to figure out how to move on. The Palestinians are saying that at least 46 people, including 16 children, died. Israel says 20 of those were militants, and they say some of the civilians were actually killed by militant rockets that fell short.

CHANG: And I understand that you have been personally talking to some people who barely survived. What are you hearing from them?

TANIS: So I spoke with 21-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Shamallakh, who is in his third year studying medicine. And I actually found him standing over the rubble of his building, which had four apartments. It was targeted in an airstrike and is now completely destroyed. Israel said they were trying to strike Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza. And we don't know exactly why this building was hit.

But Shamallakh says his brother got a call from the Israelis telling them they had two minutes to evacuate. And so the whole family ran across the street to the waterfront where he says he was so scared and couldn't bear to see his home destroyed. So he just looked out to the sea until it was all over and then came back to realize he'd lost everything.

MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM SHAMALLAKH: Everything - my books, my bags, everything for university, all my clothes.

TANIS: But he says he's not going to let this get in the way of his studies or his future as a doctor.

SHAMALLAKH: I will try to buy another books and to complete my university. I will not stop.

CHANG: There has been, Fatma, this ongoing cycle of wars there for the past 15 years - right? - like, with no end in sight. So I'm wondering, when you talk to people about that seemingly endless cycle, what do they say to you about it?

TANIS: You know, the general sense is just tremendous frustration and exhaustion. People's nerves are frayed from not being able to recover from one trauma by the time they get hit with the next one. And they feel like they're trapped in an endless war they have no control over. I met Riyad Qaddoum at the memorial for his 5-year-old granddaughter, Alaa, as she was one of the first casualties of the weekend. And he just couldn't understand why Israelis didn't have more precise targeting.

RIYAD QADDOUM: (Non-English language spoken).

TANIS: "What was the fault of my girl," he kept asking. "Why did they rob her of her life?" But at the same time, you know, people are saying they're just - they have to get on with their lives. They don't have much of a choice. This is a densely populated, bustling city, and most of it is back up and running. You can now hear children playing outside. And I've already passed by two weddings happening here tonight.

CHANG: That is NPR's Fatma Tanis in Gaza City. Thank you so much, Fatma.

TANIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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