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Israeli troops take control, cut power in one of Gaza's last functioning hospitals

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A hospital in southern Gaza is stuck in the middle of the Israel-Hamas war. Israeli troops have taken it over and say it's an operation center for Hamas. Meanwhile, the Palestinian medical staff is still attempting to take care of patients, and outside the hospital, Hamas fighters and Israeli forces are shooting at each other. NPR's Greg Myre is in Tel Aviv. Greg, thanks for being with us.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Sure thing, Scott.

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SIMON: And tell us more about the situation at the hospital.

MYRE: Well, Israel says it's arrested about 100 suspected militants over the past couple of days at the Nasser medical complex. This is one of the last functioning hospitals in Gaza. It's in the southern city of Khan Younis. The health ministry in Gaza says all the power to the hospital was cut and that five patients who depended on oxygen died as a result. Israel says the medical staff and about 200 patients remain there and that it's not trying to shut down the hospital. In fact, it wants to keep it running. Now, Israeli troops reached the hospital a couple days ago. They ordered thousands of civilians on the hospital grounds seeking shelter to leave. They entered the hospital. They said they had intelligence that Hamas was operating there and that Israeli hostages, living or dead, might be there. They say they haven't found any hostages, but they have found medications bearing the names of hostages. So it's hard to get a clear picture, Scott. The communications are extremely poor. We've seen a few videos that have shown some damage and chaotic scenes at the hospital.

SIMON: Of course, this comes at a time where there are efforts to work out some kind of cease-fire arrangement. What are the prospects?

MYRE: Well, it's moving slowly at best. The talks are focused on an initial cease-fire of around six weeks and another exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. There were some talks this week in Egypt, but substantial gaps remain. Hamas wants a lengthy cease-fire and then leading to the end of the war and the Israeli troops leaving Gaza. But Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, keeps calling the Hamas demands delusional. He says his goal is still to destroy Hamas. So a temporary cease-fire is still possible, but we're not anywhere near a deal to actually end the war.

SIMON: If those talks collapse, would Israel go ahead with its ground invasion of Rafah?

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MYRE: You know, it's definitely a possibility. Israeli leaders continue to talk about the possibility of an attack in Rafah. This is the last Hamas stronghold there at the very southern end of Gaza, on the border with Egypt. More than a million Palestinian civilians are squeezed into a tent city in and around Rafah. And, of course, a major military operation could lead to huge civilian casualties in a war where Israel is already facing intense criticism for the deaths of so many women and children.

SIMON: And, of course, Greg, Rafah is right on the border with Egypt. And Egypt has concerns here, too, doesn't it?

MYRE: Yeah, and Egypt has long kept this border closed. It doesn't want Gaza's chaos spilling into its territory. It's also well aware of the painful history of Palestinians being displaced in previous wars and never being allowed to return. But in recent days, Egypt has started constructing - doing construction work several miles back from the border. It appears to be building a wall in case the Palestinians in southern Gaza come pouring across the border. Now, Egypt isn't talking about this, but satellite photos from the company Maxar show bulldozers and earthmoving equipment clearing an awful lot of land in this in this area, which is Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. And this really shows how Egypt and others are very nervous about what could happen in Rafah in the coming days.

SIMON: NPR's Greg Myre in Tel Aviv. Greg, thanks so much for being with us.

MYRE: Sure thing, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Greg Myre
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.