- A blackout of internet and phone services is now occurring across Gaza.
- The services have collapsed due to a lack of fuel in the area, says the main telecom provider.
- Israel refuses to let fuel into Gaza to repair the services, leaving their recovery uncertain.
Internet and telephone services collapsed across the Gaza Strip on Thursday due to lack of fuel, the main Palestinian provider said, bringing a potentially long-term blackout of communications as Israel signaled its offensive against Hamas could next target the south, where most of the population has taken refuge.
Israeli troops for a second day searched Al Shifa Hospital in the north for traces of Hamas. They displayed what they said was a tunnel entrance and weapons found in a truck inside the compound. But the military has yet to release evidence of a central Hamas command center that Israel has said is concealed beneath the complex. Hamas and staff at the hospital, Gaza’s largest, deny the allegations.
The military said it found the body of one of the hostages abducted by Hamas, 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss, in a building adjacent to Shifa, where it said it also found assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. It did not give the cause of her death.
The communications breakdown largely cuts off Gaza’s 2.3 million people from each other and the outside world, worsening the severe humanitarian crisis in southern Gaza, even as Israeli airstrikes continue there. The UN’s World Food Program 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’ October 7 attack into southern Israel in which the militants killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured some 240 men, women, and children. Weiss, the woman whose body was found Thursday, is the third hostage confirmed dead, while four others have been freed and one rescued.
Israel responded to the attack with a weekslong air campaign and a ground invasion of northern Gaza, vowing to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities.
More than 11,470 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The official count does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
Al Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, has not had electricity for nearly a week, and staff say they have been struggling to keep alive 36 premature babies and 45 dialysis patients without functional equipment.
In early November, the only cancer-treating hospital in Gaza ran out of fuel, leaving 70 patients “seriously threatened”; in mid-November, the only open pediatric hospital in Gaza reported it was surrounded by Israeli military forces and tanks.
Israel has sealed off Gaza since the start of the war, allowing only a fraction of the necessary aid from Egypt. It also bars delivery of fuel, saying it will be diverted to Hamas — though it allowed a small amount this week for UN trucks to use in delivering aid.
Lack of fuel brought down the internet and phone network, and it can’t be restarted unless Israel lets in fuel, said Palnet, the main Palestinian telecoms provider.
Previous blackouts traumatized Palestinians, leaving them unable to call ambulances or reach family members to ensure that they are alive. Aid workers say the shutdowns wreak havoc on humanitarian operations and hospitals.