RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is a day of grieving, of recovery and more protest in Gaza. The area erupted in protest yesterday. Palestinians approached the border fences, and Israel's army killed at least 60. Gaza has a long history of troubles. It’s blockaded by Israel and Egypt. There is widespread poverty and extreme unemployment. Water service and electrical service are spotty at best. And today, the health system there is pushed to the brink. Gaza health officials say 1,359 people suffered gunshot wounds yesterday. Steve Inskeep is in Gaza today.
And Steve, what does it feel like there?
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: It's eerie and especially was early this morning as we rolled in. The normally busy streets of Gaza City were almost clear. This is a big day for Palestinians every year. It's nakba day, as they call it, the annual date when they mark the loss of land at the independence of Israel in 1948, and it underlines the issue Palestinians are highlighting with six weeks of deadly protests. Now, Rachel, I want you to hear some of the sounds of Gaza today, a day when Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, called for a general strike.
(SOUNDBITE OF HORSE CLOPPING)
INSKEEP: Not much traffic early in the morning - a few horse carts - there went one - a stray security checkpoint. Most of the shops are closed.
NPR's Abu Bakr Bashir was in the vehicle. He'd arranged a driver for us, a different driver than we'd used before in Gaza.
ABU BAKR BASHIR, BYLINE: The other driver's nephew was killed. He was one of the protesters. He was a 15-year-old kid, and he was shot dead yesterday.
INSKEEP: We drove to Gaza's main hospital, and in a crowd outside, we met Ghazi al-Gabli (ph), who's retired. He'd been to visit somebody in the hospital.
GHAZI AL-GABLI: Yesterday, my son went to the border, and he has gunshot. He needs surgery. But to now, he has not surgery, but - because he has a fracture in his leg here - left.
INSKEEP: I see.
AL-GABLI: And so - so very bleeding.
INSKEEP: It was a bullet wound?
AL-GABLI: Yes, yes.
INSKEEP: Could you take us to him?
AL-GABLI: You could come with (unintelligible). Welcome.
INSKEEP: We went up the stairs and saw him in a bloodstained hospital bed. Mohammed Ghazi Gabli (ph) - 19 years old, wearing a foot bandage soaked in blood and in too much pain to tell us why he went to the border yesterday.
MOHAMMED GHAZI GABLI: (Yelling in foreign language).
AL-GABLI: He's is crying from the pain.
GABLI: (Foreign language spoken).
AL-GABLI: He is crying from the pain all the night.
INSKEEP: What time did he come here yesterday?
AL-GABLI: Yesterday at 10 o'clock in the morning.
INSKEEP: Ten o'clock?
AL-GABLI: In the morning, yes.
INSKEEP: So 24 hours, and no doctor has seen him yet.
AL-GABLI: Yes. Doctor - no doctor.
INSKEEP: This hospital was just overwhelmed with casualties. Now, for all this suffering, some Palestinians have still been moving toward the border fence today. We're at one of the main protest sites. We've seen people moving in that direction. We've heard scattered gunshots, we presume from Israeli forces. And we've also encountered Ahmed al-Bordani (ph), who is 19 years old, and when we saw him, was holding a homemade white kite.
Would you describe what that is?
AHMED AL-BORDANI: (Through interpreter) This is a kite that's going to go to the Jews.
INSKEEP: He said it's designed to float over the Israelis and catch fire. It was decorated with writing claiming Jerusalem for Palestinians and also with swastikas.
What does this thing mean to you? Why do you put that on there?
AL-BORDANI: (Through interpreter) The Jews go crazy for Hitler when they see it.
INSKEEP: The Israelis know that people are flying kites with swastikas. They know this, and they use it to discredit you, to say this shows you're bad people. What do you think about that?
AL-BORDANI: (Foreign language spoken).
INSKEEP: "This is actually what we want them to know," he says, "that we want to burn them." That is one of many views we've heard in the last few days in Gaza, where at least 60 people were killed yesterday in protests. The person we heard helping to translate the Arabic just there was Daniel Estrin of NPR News. He's based in the region. He's been traveling to Gaza for years, and he has been at an area hospital looking at the suffering after yesterday's shootings.
Daniel, we met one of the wounded there. You have seen many wounded. How widespread is the suffering here?
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: The hospitals are really overwhelmed right now. There are no free beds at the main hospital where we were at. There are some types of sutures for surgeries that they are at a critical low for. The head of the emergency department told me that the number of wounded rushed to the hospital yesterday is more than the daily average number of wounded brought to hospitals in the 2014 Gaza war, which is astonishing.
INSKEEP: How has the Israeli military defended its use of force here, Daniel Estrin? We're talking about the deadliest day at the end of six weeks of very deadly protests.
ESTRIN: Israel says that it only uses live fire when people are threatening the border fence, attempting to scale the fence. They say this is something that a sovereign nation has to do to protect its border. And they say that yesterday was the most violent day of all of the protests. They say there were some attempts to open - to - some attempts to place explosives on the border - many, many, many thousands of people at the border. They say no country can accept this.
INSKEEP: Although you can see the political effect of the kind of protests that Hamas and others are supporting here. When Hamas has gone after Israel in the past, they've used missiles; it's been a military conflict. Hamas has typically lost. In this case, most of the protesters are unarmed. Most people are just walking toward a border fence, and you've had humanitarian aid groups from different parts of the world condemn the Israeli response.
ESTRIN: I was in a very interesting press briefing with a Hamas leader who said very clearly that he sees these protests as achieving a goal, which is pressuring Israel to improve the conditions in Gaza. He was a prisoner in Israeli jails for several decades, and he waged hunger strikes, and he got improved conditions in that prison. Now, he says, we are in a large prison, the prison of Gaza, and these protests can achieve, he's convinced.
INSKEEP: NPR's Daniel Estrin is here in Gaza. Daniel, thanks for your work.
ESTRIN: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.