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The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind for Palestinians in Rafah


Israeli tanks rolled into the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight, taking control of the Palestinian side of the border crossing with Egypt.

ABDALWAHAB HAMAD: There are no safe spaces in Gaza.

SHAPIRO: AbdAlwahab Hamad works for a community development organization in Gaza, and he spoke to us earlier today from Rafah.

HAMAD: The concept of safe designated area has become elusive for the people of Gaza. It is illusion because it has just been shattered. We speak about 1.3 million Palestinians living in a place smaller than major airports. It is the last remaining sanctuary in Gaza, the last refuge. And by the way, there is no refuge.


Israeli airstrikes have already been pounding Rafah for weeks, killing hundreds there since late March, most of them women and children, according to hospital records.

MAHA HAMDAN: (Speaking Arabic).

SUMMERS: That's Maha Hamdan speaking to NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba. He spoke to her after last night's heavy bombardment. She says, "we were asleep when we woke up to screaming and stone and glass shattering." When she went outside, she saw the flesh of children strewn about in the street and women in pieces.

SHAPIRO: Rafah currently contains at least 1.3 million Palestinians. More than half are displaced from other parts of Gaza.

HAMAD: Those people have been displaced for months now, navigating the journey from the north to the south.

SHAPIRO: That's Hamad again. He now lives in a refugee camp in Rafah after being displaced six times. He says this is somehow more than a humanitarian crisis. There is not enough food and close to no clean water.

HAMAD: Ninety percent of Gaza's health system has collapsed. Diseases are on the rise, particularly malaria. In Rafah now, we have more than 600,000 children in tents. It's a city of tent. It's a city of the children.

SHAPIRO: Hamad says people are ravenous for life, even just normal life.


SHAPIRO: Yesterday, for a brief moment, people in Rafah were actually celebrating. Hamas announced it had agreed to terms of a cease-fire proposed by Egypt and Qatar.

HAMAD: The moment I heard that they're kind of reaching a deal, I was super-happy. I kind of celebrated. I personally have bought sweets, like dessert. But then in one night, shift. You know, it was - it is hilarious - ridiculous. It's just like a dream. 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.

Linah Mohammad
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Patrick Jarenwattananon
[Copyright 2024 NPR]