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Gaza bakery that kept making cakes in wartime suffers heavy blow

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

A couple of weeks ago on this program, NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, visited a bakery in the city of Rafah that was making cakes for displaced people trying to celebrate life during war.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: Seeing it after 140 days of war, someone in Gaza who just, like, wants to share all of the love and happiness by making some cakes is making me myself happy.

DETROW: Now NPR's Daniel Estrin brings us an update from the baker. It is about another branch of the bakery.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Baker Ibrahim Abu Hani says his sister and her husband were running the main branch of the bakery in the city of Khan Younis until the Israeli military issued evacuation orders for the area, and they all left.

IBRAHIM ABU HANI: (Through interpreter) When the Israeli army temporarily withdrew from the area of the bakery, some friends reached the place. And we learned that the bakery was destroyed.

ESTRIN: He sent videos that show a littered street in front of the bakery. The mint green doors are mangled. The empty glass refrigerators used to display cakes. This bakery stored ingredients and machines for the bakery's other branches, and it was the family's first bakery in Gaza.

ABU HANI: (Through interpreter) It was a shock seeing the photos. It took us back to how much we laughed, how happy we were for the success of a new product. Words fail to describe the sadness to overwhelm us all.

ESTRIN: Hunger is spreading in Gaza, but Abu Hani's bakery branch in Rafah is still open, and he's still baking cakes for Palestinians in tents and shelters who still want to celebrate birthdays and weddings. He says his job - to spread joy - is getting harder as the war drags on.

ABU HANI: (Through interpreter) You're at the bakery, working, and you hear bombing. You hear the sound of a plane. You want to check in with your family, but you can't. Communications are lost. It becomes exhausting. You lose your strength.

ESTRIN: Abu Hani has tried to build a different world away from war. He's disconnected the internet for his family. He's brought his kids books. But sometimes they don't want him to leave to work at the bakery.

ABU HANI: (Through interpreter) They say, Dad, stay with us. Stay with us here. We're laughing and happy even if a missile kills us. Let us all die together while we're laughing. We don't want anyone to die alone.

ESTRIN: Now the U.S. is urging Israel not to launch a military operation in Rafah. Israel says it must to dismantle Hamas there. It would mean civilians in Rafah would be ordered to evacuate, and Abu Hani would have to close up his bakery there. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Tel Aviv. 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.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.