Gaza's phone and internet connections are cut off again, as ground battles intensifies

AP , Wednesday 1 Nov 2023

Palestinians reported another widespread outage of internet and phone service in Gaza early Wednesday, hours after Israeli airstrikes levelled apartment buildings near Gaza City and as ground battles between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters intensified.

Gaza
This picture taken on November 1, 2023, from a position along the border with the Gaza Strip shows buildings destroyed by Israeli bombardment .AFP

 

The Palestinian telecoms company Paltel reported a “complete disruption” of internet and mobile phone services in Gaza, marking the second time in five days that residents were largely cut off from the world. Communications also went down over the weekend, as Israeli troops pushed into Gaza in larger numbers.

Humanitarian aid agencies have warned that such blackouts severely disrupt their work in an already dire situation in Gaza, where more than half of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians has been displaced and basic supplies are running low more than three weeks into the war.

Attempts to reach Gaza residents by phone were unsuccessful early Wednesday. Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org confirmed that Gaza “is in the midst of a total or near-total telecoms blackout consistent with” the weekend blackout.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the communication blackout would disrupt the work of first responders and make it harder for civilians to seek safety. “Even the potentially life-saving act of calling an ambulance becomes impossible," said Jessica Moussan, an ICRC spokesperson.

On Tuesday, a barrage of airstrikes levelled apartment buildings in a refugee camp near Gaza City. Rescuers frantically dug through the destruction to pull men, women and children from the rubble. The director of a nearby hospital where casualties were taken, Dr Atef Al-Kahlot, said hundreds of people were wounded or killed, but the exact toll was not yet known.

Israel has been vague about its operations in Gaza, but residents and spokesmen for militant groups say troops appear to be trying to take control of the two main north-south roads.

An estimated 800,000 Palestinians have fled south from Gaza City and other northern areas following Israeli orders to evacuate, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north, including many who left and later returned because Israel is also carrying out airstrikes in the south.

Gaza has been sealed off since the start of the war, causing shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel. More than 200 aid trucks carrying food and medicine entered from Egypt over the past 10 days, but aid workers say it's not nearly enough.

Israel has barred fuel imports, leading to a territory-wide blackout and warnings from hospitals that their emergency generators may soon shut down, putting patients on life support at risk.

The strike in Jabaliya underlined the anticipated surge in casualties on both sides as Israeli troops advance toward dense residential neighbourhoods. The military confirmed Wednesday that nine soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Gaza, bringing the total of military casualties since the start of the ground operation to 11.

More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, the Gaza Health Ministry said Tuesday.

The war has also threatened to ignite fighting on other fronts. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group have traded fire daily along the border, and Israel and the U.S. have struck targets in Syria linked to Iran, which supports Hamas, Hezbollah, and other armed groups in the region.

The military said it shot down what appeared to be a drone near the southernmost city of Eilat and intercepted a missile over the Red Sea on Tuesday, neither of which entered Israeli airspace.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen later claimed they fired ballistic missiles and drones at Israel, saying it was their third such operation and threatening more. Israel said Wednesday that it had dispatched navy missile boats to the Red Sea.

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