Friday, November 17, 2023

Gaza’s Internet and Phone Networks Collapse, Deepening Humanitarian Crisis | TOME


Internet and Telephone Services Collapse in Gaza Strip as Fuel Runs Out

Internet and telephone services have collapsed across the Gaza Strip due to a lack of fuel, according to the main Palestinian provider. This blackout of communications comes as Israel signals that its offensive against Hamas could next target the south, where most of the population has sought refuge.

Israeli troops have been searching Shifa Hospital in the north for traces of Hamas for the second day. They claim to have found a tunnel entrance and weapons inside the compound, but have yet to release evidence of a central Hamas command center that they say is hidden beneath the hospital. Hamas and hospital staff deny these allegations.

The breakdown of communications has cut off Gaza’s 2.3 million people from each other and the outside world, exacerbating the severe humanitarian crisis in southern Gaza. The UN’s World Food Program has warned of the immediate possibility of starvation in Gaza as the food supply has broken down under Israel’s seal and too little is coming from Egypt.

The war, now in its sixth week, was triggered by Hamas’ attack into southern Israel on October 7th, in which over 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and hundreds were captured. Israel responded with an air campaign and ground invasion, aiming to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities.

According to Palestinian health authorities, more than 11,470 Palestinians have been killed, with two-thirds of them being women and minors. Another 2,700 are reported missing, believed to be buried under rubble. Israel claims to have killed thousands of militants.

The war has also heightened tensions in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint on the main road linking Jerusalem to Israeli settlements, killing a soldier and wounding three people. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israeli troops continue to search Shifa Hospital, which has been without electricity for nearly a week. Staff are struggling to keep premature babies and dialysis patients alive without functional equipment. The hospital’s director reported that one dialysis patient died on Thursday, and 650 wounded patients and 5,000 displaced people are currently in the hospital.

Israel has accused Hamas of using Palestinians as human shields, which they say is the reason for the large number of civilian casualties during the bombardment. They have also claimed that the hospital is a major Hamas headquarters, but have only shown caches of weapons as evidence.

The Israeli military has announced that it will eventually expand its ground operation to include both the north and south of Gaza. Leaflets have been dropped, urging Palestinians in areas east of Khan Younis to evacuate. Strikes continue in the south, and if the assault moves there, it is unclear where the population would go, as Egypt refuses to allow a mass transfer onto its soil.

The heads of 18 UN agencies and international charities have rejected the creation of a safe zone, stating that concentrating civilians in one area while hostilities continue is too dangerous. They have called for a ceasefire and unimpeded entry of humanitarian aid and fuel for Gaza’s population.

Israel has sealed off Gaza since the start of the war, allowing only a trickle of aid from Egypt. The World Food Program warns that with winter approaching, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation due to unsafe and overcrowded shelters, lack of clean water, and collapsed food supply chains.

The lack of fuel has not only affected internet and telephone services but also humanitarian operations and hospitals. Palestinians are left unable to call ambulances or reach family members during these blackouts. Aid workers are doing their best to maintain communication using satellite phones or SIM cards that connect to Israeli or Egyptian networks.

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