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The Latest Updates On The Israel And Gaza Conflict

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A U.S. State Department envoy's in the Middle East seeking ways to try and calm fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. Meanwhile, the building that contains the bureaus of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera in Gaza has been flattened by a strike of Israeli warplanes. Israel says Hamas had intelligence offices there. It's the latest attack in six days of intense fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. At least 139 Palestinians in Gaza are dead. At least nine people in Israel have died.

NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us from Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks for being with us.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: And what do we know that's been going on in the past few hours, and specifically this strike in Gaza?

ESTRIN: Right. Well, The Associated Press bureau was in a high-rise building in Gaza City, along with Al Jazeera, other offices. The AP reports that the owner of the building got a call from the Israeli army saying, we are going to target the building; evacuate now. AP journalist Fares Akram tweeted that the staff ran down 11 flights of stairs, evacuated the building and then watched and prayed that Israel would reverse its decision. It did not. Israel destroyed the building about an hour after notifying the building, and no one was reported injured in the attack. Israel then said this building was used by Hamas military intelligence.

Now, I asked Mark Regev, the senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about this. He said an hour's notice was adequate warning to evacuate. He said Israel paid a price itself by giving Hamas that warning as well when they announced it to the building, but that Israel had protected innocent life but also accomplished its goals in the military operation. He said Hamas was the one putting journalists' lives at risk by being in the building. I did not get answers to my questions of why did Israel never previously tell The Associated Press or the other media that Hamas was allegedly in the building.

SIMON: There's a lot of concern about what could happen, obviously, next, as Israel seems to be increasing firepower. This could escalate the situation, couldn't it?

ESTRIN: Yes. This campaign is pressing on. We have Palestinian rocket fire on Israel ongoing - 2,000 rockets and counting so far overall. Another Israeli died today from rocket fire that hit the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. And air raid sirens in Israel going off all day, Israeli bombardment of Gaza continuing. And a family of 10, according to Gaza officials, died, including two women and eight children.

This could escalate. And one thing...

SIMON: Yeah.

ESTRIN: ...To be concerned about is a possible humanitarian crisis.

SIMON: A humanitarian crisis, of course, that would be - as more areas are destroyed, it's difficult for water and electricity, right?

ESTRIN: That's right. Electricity is already in short supply. The U.N. says a quarter of a million people have limited access to tap water now. And we should look out for whether Israel launches a ground incursion and sends ground troops inside Gaza. That has not happened yet. It, in fact, seemed to have been happening early yesterday morning when the army told several foreign media outlets, including NPR, that ground troops had entered Gaza. In fact, they had not. The military called it a communication error, but Israeli media widely reported it was part of a ruse to trick Palestinian militants into moving underground, and then Israel bombed them.

SIMON: There is a U.S. envoy in the region. What are they trying to do?

ESTRIN: Hady Amr, State Department official - his first visit here in the job - he is trying to urge calm. And, you know, the U.S. is really the only player here that Israel considers a close ally that it trusts. That gives the U.S. some leverage to support Israel publicly but behind closed doors press Israel on ways to minimize casualties in Gaza.

SIMON: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

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