Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, you're tuned to The World, back with you after two weeks away, and yes, I was on vacation. But honestly, it was hard to unplug from the headlines, especially with the horrible news coming out of the Mid East. We'll start with what's happening in Gaza today. There's a lull in the fighting there now, in part because of the end of Ramadan. Happy Eid Al Fitr, by the way. We'll hear later on The World about how Islam and astronomy converge to decide when that festival begins and ends, but first that pause in the fighting in Gaza. A 12-hour break this weekend gave William Booth, a foreign correspondent with the Washington Post, a chance to get into the hardest hit areas of Gaza to assess the damage. He took a smartphone as a notepad to record what he saw.
William Booth: In Shajai'ya, we saw whole apartment blocks leveled, huge bomb craters, impassable roads, lots of dead animals, lots of smells of dead people still in the rubble. What was shocking to us â€” and to the people of Gaza who walked back into these neighborhoods, who had been gone a couple of days â€” was the scale and the extent. It was not just a house here or a house there as we'd seen earlier, but it was like, just, a whole block shot up.
Werman: During the heavy fighting when this destruction occurred, where were you? Hunkered down in a hotel?
Booth: We weren't hunkered in the hotels. We could move around pretty well. But in some of the areas of the heaviest fighting, kind of on the fringes, like the frontline right along the Gaza fence, where there were Israeli tanks, those areas were too dangerous to go into deeply until Saturday.
Werman: What was that like for you? You're now going to be introduced to these areas that you had been hearing the concussions happening; major destruction perhaps, but you didn't really know. What was going through your mind before you headed out to these really rough zones like Shajai'ya?
Booth: Well, it's one of these things where you're getting closer and closer to the place and you're starting to see the first bits of damage and then heavier damage. At this point, you're off on foot, so you have to leave the cars behind because the roads were impassable and you start walking and you see a house down and then another house down and a bigger house down, and then you turn a corner or one of your colleagues does or one of the Gaza people are waving at you and you turn the corner and you're just gobsmacked by some scene of destruction that is larger than you had anticipated. It's not just a small family house down, it's like a big apartment block or a big crater, and so you just kind of march through and you use your iPhone 5 and you take pictures and you take notes and then you try to grab people on the street to do quick interviews with. But at the same time, you're trying to move fairly quickly and efficiently because at any point these ceasefires have ended. So both for the reporters and for the people in Gaza, there's like a "Hurry up." People are moving fast. People aren't gathering and having conversations on the street or taking moments to do things - like the people in Gaza are just going in and getting their stuff.
Werman: In those few moments, those few minutes where those residents of these places like Shajai'ya and Beit Hanoun, are kind of looking at the damage, overseeing it, how are they reacting?
Booth: I was surprised by the silence, that the streets were quiet, that you didn't hear people wailing and yelling and shouting about the Israelis. People were shocked and they were stunned. There was a quiet maybe also because the cars couldn't get up, so you're just kind of walking along this rubble-strewn street, looking into houses and buildings that aren't really there anymore and seeing all these things that you see in war, like dead animals or someone pulling some pitiful object like a bag of rice or a beaten up 1980's version television from the rubble or trying to get everyone's attention to bring a bulldozer in because they think somebody is lying inside the house and they can't get at them.
Werman: You were seeing whole apartment buildings brought down, whole city blocks turned into craters. Is it clear to you how the Israeli-declared strategy of surgically pinpointing targets actually works in Gaza?
Booth: I think at the beginning of the 3-week campaign things were much more surgical, much more precision strike and in the last days the Israelis changed their rules of engagement. Earlier we saw surgical strikes where literally the target of the Israeli strike would be some guy sitting on a couch in a corner room on the second story and they hit that couch on the second story of that apartment. What we saw in the last few days was whole blocks down.
Werman: Foreign correspondent William Booth with the Washington Post speaking with us from Jerusalem. William, thanks so much.
Booth: Any time. Thank you.