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The U.N. says its relief efforts in Gaza will stop if fuel doesn't arrive soon

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Gaza is just about out of food, water, medical supplies and now fuel. Since Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza on October 7, only a few dozen aid trucks have made it into the Palestinian territory. NPR's Elissa Nadworny takes us to a place where airstrikes and desperate need are now part of everyday life.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Most nights, Shaimaa Ahed (ph) can't sleep.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAIMAA AHED: The sound of the buzzing airplanes is very loud during the night.

NADWORNY: It's nearly 3 a.m. when she whispers this voice memo. Ahed is staying in a house in Gaza City with 150 people packed in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AHED: Over here is whistle sounds and then loud bomb sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

AHED: This is a faraway one. When they're close, you feel as if the bomb is going to fall on your head.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

NADWORNY: For more than two weeks, her city has been under nearly constant attack from Israeli airstrikes. Aid groups are sounding the alarm. The 20-year-old engineering student has been documenting life under siege for the U.S.-based Institute for Middle East Understanding, which seeks to give voice to Palestinians.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AHED: Bombs are there day and night, and they don't stop. It is continuous, but at night we just feel more vulnerable because we're lying down. Now we are just ready to run at any moment. And that is the difference between day and night in Gaza.

JULIETTE TOUMA: I mean, the situation is terrible, and it gets worse by the hour - not even by the day.

NADWORNY: Juliette Touma is with the U.N. agency for Palestine refugees. Thirty-eight members of her staff have been killed. Many more have lost family members and homes. Touma says the biggest need for the U.N. in Gaza right now is fuel.

TOUMA: Our supplies are really dwindling, and they're running out fast. And this is why we need fuel today.

NADWORNY: Fuel to keep hospitals going, to power the water system and to power U.N. vehicles that transport food. But Israel says it could also be diverted by Hamas, which continues to launch rockets and other attacks on Israel. But not having fuel means not continuing their operations, which currently include housing more than half a million people in shelters. It also means nearly all residential buildings are dark.

MAHMOUD KHUWAITER: Hi. I feel this is my last message.

NADWORNY: In Gaza City, Mahmoud Khuwaiter (ph) records daily voice memos to his friends and families, just in case he doesn't survive the night.

KHUWAITER: It's my first time to feel afraid of something. I'm afraid. I'm afraid for my family members to die in front of my eye. And I'm afraid for the next day. I'm afraid for the night to come.

NADWORNY: Khuwaiter is a newlywed and told NPR he recently built his dream house, which is now destroyed. He's one of more than 1.4 million people internally displaced within Gaza, according to the U.N.

KHUWAITER: We have around 15 kids living inside the house that I live in. And in the night, I hear they're crying while they sleeping, and I cannot do anything for them.

NADWORNY: He and his family haven't moved south because his parents are too ill. They don't have transportation and fuel. And where would they stay? Their supply of medicine and food is dwindling, and there's no electricity.

KHUWAITER: I charge my phone by the car battery, and maybe tomorrow the battery will be empty.

NADWORNY: But for now, at least, there's enough juice to keep making his nightly messages.

Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) 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.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.