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Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah rise amid fears of the war spilling over

ALINA SELYUKH, HOST:

Israeli military officials say they are stepping up their offensive in Gaza as tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians continue to flee into the southernmost corner of the enclave. United Nations officials are warning about the humanitarian situation, especially in southern Gaza, where overcrowding, food shortages and spreading disease have reached critical levels. Cross-border artillery exchanges between Lebanon and Israel have also increased in recent days, with Israel issuing stern warnings to Hezbollah militants. NPR's Carrie Kahn joins us now from Tel Aviv. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hello.

SELYUKH: So what can you tell us about the stepped-up offensive deep into Gaza by Israel's military?

KAHN: Fighting has intensified, with Israel stepping up air, land and sea bombardments in recent days. Both Hamas and Israel's military have reported intense combat in central Gaza and around the second-largest city, Khan Younis, and even in southern Gaza, where Israel has told most Gazans to go for their safety. The U.N. says 100,000 more Palestinians have fled in recent days to the south. According to Gaza's health ministry, more than 21,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war now. The U.N. secretary-general yesterday again called for a humanitarian cease-fire and release of all hostages that Hamas is still holding captive from the October 7 attack on Israel. Antonio Guterres said he is concerned about further spillover of the conflict throughout the region.

SELYUKH: And what is the situation along the Lebanese-Israeli border in the north?

KAHN: Cross-border artillery and rocket fire have been a daily occurrence there all week, with many already happening today. We've heard some - warning sirens have been constant in northern Israeli towns. Israel says it's carried out extensive strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon near the Israeli border just in the last couple days. Israeli military officials this week issued some very stern warnings to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. One member of the Israeli war cabinet was quoted earlier this week warning the militants that Israel could do in Beirut what it has done in Gaza if Hezbollah continues its attacks into northern Israel.

SELYUKH: And what's the latest on any proposals for a cease-fire or an exchange of hostages?

KAHN: Earlier in the week, there was an Egyptian proposal, and now another attempt by Qatar is being discussed, but neither appears to be moving forward. The proposals call for withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a political resolution to the conflict. But Israel still wants to press ahead with its military goal of crushing Hamas. Meanwhile, last night, an interview of one of the released hostages, Mia Schem, is getting much play on major news outlets here in Israel. Here's a small excerpt from Channel 13.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIA SCHEM: (Speaking Hebrew).

KAHN: Schem talks about feeling very guilty about being freed while others remain in Gaza, and she talks about promising them as she left that the hostages will not be forgotten. She was held in Gaza for more than 50 days, part of the time with a family there, she says. She also says she had an operation there without anesthesia or painkillers for a wound she sustained in the October 7 attack. And she says while there, she felt like being a caged animal in a zoo.

SELYUKH: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Tel Aviv. Thank you for sharing all this.

KAHN: Thank you for having me. 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.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.