KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Phone and Internet service was partially restored in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, ending a telecommunications blackout that forced the United Nations to suspend critical humanitarian aid deliveries because it could not coordinate your convoys.
Meanwhile, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.
At the beginning of the war, the Israeli army told civilians to flee northern Gaza, the target of its ground offensive, but also continued its bombing in the southern evacuation zone, where Khan Younis is located.
Israel has signaled plans to expand its offensive southward while continuing operations in the north, including in Gaza City, where troops were still searching the territory’s largest hospital, Shifa, for traces of a Hamas command center that Israel alleges it was located beneath the building, a claim Hamas and hospital staff deny.
In Khan Younis, the early Saturday attack hit the town of Hamad, a middle-class housing estate built in recent years with funding from Qatar. In addition to the 26 people killed, another 20 were injured, said Dr. Nehad Taeima of Nasser Hospital.
Israel rarely comments on individual attacks, saying only that they are targeting Hamas and trying to avoid harm to civilians. In many of the Israeli attacks, women and children are among the dead.
The war, now in its seventh week, was triggered by the October 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 240 men, women and children.
More than 11,400 Palestinians have died in the war, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 people have been reported missing and are believed to be buried under the rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and fighters, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
The UN has warned that Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are running out of food and water, but it was not immediately clear when the Palestinian refugee agency, known as UNRWA, could resume delivering aid that was suspended on Friday. . .
The Palestinian telecommunications provider said it was able to restart its generators after UNRWA donated fuel. The end of the communications blackout meant the return of news and messages from journalists and activists in the besieged enclave on social media platforms when the service began to return on Friday night.
HELP DRYES UP
Gaza’s main power plant closed at the start of the war and Israel cut off electricity supplies. That makes the fuel necessary to power the generators needed to run not only the telecommunications network, but also water treatment plants, healthcare facilities, hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
Israel has banned the entry of fuel since the start of the war, claiming that Hamas would divert it for military purposes. It has also blocked food, water and other supplies, except for a small amount of aid from Egypt that aid workers say falls far short of what is needed.
In the future, Israel said it would allow in 10,000 liters (2,641 gallons) of fuel daily for communications service to continue, according to the US State Department. Additionally, Israel agreed on Friday, after a U.S. request, to allow a “very minimal” amount of fuel into Gaza each day for humanitarian purposes, Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said. COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for Palestinian affairs, said it would be equivalent to 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) per day for the UN.
Still, that is only 37% of the fuel UNRWA needs to support its humanitarian operations, including food distribution and running generators in hospitals and water and sanitation facilities, the UN said.
Gaza has received only 10% of the food supplies it needs each day in shipments from Egypt, according to the UN, and the shutdown of the water system has left the majority of the population drinking contaminated water, causing an outbreak of disease.
Dehydration and malnutrition are increasing and nearly all residents need food, according to the United Nations World Food Program.
MARCH FOR THE HOSTAGES
Israeli officials had previously promised that no fuel would be allowed in until Gaza militants freed the hostages. The government has been under heavy public pressure to show that it is doing everything it can to bring back people kidnapped in the Hamas attack.
Thousands of protesters, including families of more than 50 hostages, embarked on the fourth leg of a five-day walk from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Friday, chanting: “Bring them home!” They were marching to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to ask his war cabinet to do more to rescue his loved ones. They have urged the Cabinet to consider a ceasefire or an exchange of prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
Hamas offered to exchange all the hostages for some 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, which the Cabinet rejected.
CONDITIONS IN SHIFA
With Israeli troops deployed around the Shifa Hospital complex, doctors spoke of the horrific conditions inside. Power has been out for almost a week, leaving incubators for babies and ventilators for ICU patients out of use. Nearly 7,000 people are trapped there with little food, including patients, staff and civilian families.
Hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia told Al Jazeera television that Israeli troops should bring them fuel to power equipment or allow an evacuation.
“The hospital has become a giant prison,” he said. “We are surrounded by death.”
Israel’s military said it delivered 4,000 liters (1,056 gallons) of water and 1,500 prepared meals to Shifa, but staff said it was too little for the number of people there.
Israeli military spokesman Col. Richard Hecht acknowledged that troops’ search for traces of Hamas was progressing slowly. “It’s going to take time,” he said.
Israel faces pressure to prove its claim that Hamas established its main command center inside and below the hospital. So far, Israel has shown photos and videos of weapons caches it says were found inside, as well as what it said was the entrance to a tunnel. The AP could not independently verify the Israeli claims.
The accusations are part of Israel’s broader accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields throughout the Gaza Strip, maintaining that this is the reason for the high number of civilian casualties during weeks of bombing.
HIT THE SOUTH
So far, Israel’s ground attack has focused on northern Gaza as it vows to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities. If the attack moves south, it is unclear where the Palestinians will be able to go. Egypt has refused to allow a mass transfer to its soil.
Most of the territory’s population is now taking refuge in the south, including hundreds of thousands of people who heeded Israel’s calls to evacuate Gaza City and the north to get out of the way of its ground offensive.
In addition to the attacks on Friday and Saturday in the Khan Younis area, another 41 people were killed on Friday in an attack that hit the Nuseirat refugee camp, turning a building into rubble, according to staff at a nearby hospital.
Magdy reported from Cairo, Rising from Bangkok.
Complete AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.