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The Israeli military keeps pushing into central and southern Gaza

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The center of the Israel-Hamas war is Gaza, where Israeli forces are searching for Hamas leaders, and civilians have fled the Israeli bombardment.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

But the conflict includes tensions throughout the region, including in Jerusalem. It's the site of holy places for three major religions, a city that Israel claims as its capital and where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live.

MARTIN: For more, we turn to NPR's Kat Lonsdorf, who's in Tel Aviv. Kat, hello.

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: Hey, Michel.

MARTIN: So you were reporting in Jerusalem last night in the Old City. Would you just tell us what you saw?

LONSDORF: Yeah. So it was the first night of Hanukkah, and a group of right-wing Israeli Jews had called for a march through the Muslim quarter of the Old City. Only about 50 people showed up. Media and Israeli police probably outnumbered the marchers, but some of the marchers were carrying inflammatory posters, which Israeli police then confiscated and even in some cases tore up. And then the police ended up blocking the route, which honestly, is very unusual. I've covered these kind of marches before, and I haven't ever seen that. It shows, I think, how concerned they are about the potential for violence breaking out right now, and the march ultimately fizzled out.

MARTIN: So the Old City, for people who've been there, it's - if you haven't been there, I guess if you've been there, you'd know, it's this very small, ancient, walled section of Jerusalem, really narrow streets.

LONSDORF: Yeah.

MARTIN: Could you just talk about what the mood there was last night?

LONSDORF: Yeah. It was very tense. And, you know, it has been for quite some time. We were walking through the Muslim quarter before that march was supposed to begin, and we saw Israeli Jews who live in the Old City, particularly ones who have moved into the Muslim quarter, you know, lighting their Hanukkah menorahs in the street and singing and dancing. And they were often surrounded by Israeli police as Palestinians either just kind of looked on or honestly tried to ignore it. I talked to one 18-year-old. His name was Ilan Tolub (ph). He was outside a Jewish religious school in the Muslim quarter with some friends singing in front of a menorah. And here's what he told me through an interpreter.

ILAN TOLUB: (Through interpreter) The city is not divided into quarters. It's one big Jewish quarter with different neighborhoods inside it, and that's the way it should be. And people should know it.

LONSDORF: And we asked him then about what about the Palestinians? Does any of it belong to them? And he said just simply no.

MARTIN: OK. So let's turn to the situation in Gaza. We have been hearing that Israeli forces are pushing into Central and Southern Gaza. What can you tell us about that?

LONSDORF: Yeah. The Israeli military says that they're in Khan Yunis, which is the second largest city in Gaza. It's also where the home of Hamas leader Yayha Sinwar is. They say they've encircled his home, although Sinwar's whereabouts are unknown. The military says that in the past few days, they've had some of the most intense fighting since this war began. And, you know, that intense fighting has led to mass displacement. People are fleeing to Rafah, which is a city in the south of Gaza, near the border with Egypt. And even that's not safe. Israel says Hamas has continued to launch rockets from near where people are sleeping in tents in Rafah. And just yesterday there were a few isolated strikes from Israel in Rafah.

Rafah is incredibly overcrowded. Our producer there, Anas Baba, has been sending us photos and videos, and it's pretty astonishing. Streets just filled with people, cars and donkey carts piled high with whatever people could grab. You know, and this is straining what few resources there are there - food, water, medical care. Many aid groups are saying that the situation there is just dire.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Kat Lonsdorf in Tel Aviv. Kat, thank you.

LONSDORF: Thank you. 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.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.