Deal reportedly reached to allow some wounded and foreign passport holders to leave through Rafah
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 troops battled Hamas militants inside the besieged territory.
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 triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel.
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 (ICRC) 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.
More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, the Gaza Health Ministry said Tuesday, without providing a breakdown between civilians and fighters. The figure is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas' initial attack, also an unprecedented figure. Palestinian militants also abducted around 240 people during their incursion and have continued firing rockets into Israel.
Airstrike on refugee camps kills civilians
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 said the strike, which targeted senior Hamas military leader Ibrahim Biari, destroyed a militant command centre and an underground tunnel network, and killed dozens of other fighters. Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Biari had also been a key planner of the Oct. 7 attack, and that the apartment buildings collapsed only because the underground Hamas complex had been destroyed.
Neither side's account could be independently confirmed.
Egyptian PM blames Israel for not letting enough aid into Gaza
8 hours ago
Featured VideoEgyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza blamed the Israeli government for not allowing badly needed aid to get into Gaza. He also rejected the possibility of forcing Palestinians to move into north Sinai in Egypt.
In recent days, Israeli troops have advanced toward the outskirts of Gaza City from the north and east. Israeli officials say Hamas' military infrastructure, including hundreds of kilometres of tunnels, is concentrated in the city, which was home to some 650,000 people before the war.
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.
Border at Egypt may open to wounded
Meanwhile, there are reports Qatar has mediated an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in co-ordination with the U.S., to allow for the movement of foreign passport holders and some critically injured people out of besieged Gaza, a source briefed on deal told Reuters on Wednesday.
The agreement would allow the movement of foreign passport holders and some critically injured people through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, though there is no timeline for how long the Rafah crossing will remain open for evacuation, the source added.
The agreement is not linked to other issues under negotiation such as the hostages held by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that governs Gaza, or pauses designed to ease a humanitarian crisis in the enclave which is suffering from food, water, fuel and medical shortages, said the source.
with files from Reuters
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