Gaza’s voice falls silent as Israel steps up ground assault

Gaza’s voice falls silent as Israel steps up ground assault

• Internet, phone services severed
• UN chief warns of ‘avalanche of suffering’
• White House says it now backs ‘humanitarian pause’ to let aid in

GAZA: Social media and the internet, the last means of communication the people of the besieged Gaza Strip had with the outside world, was severed on Friday as broadband and mobile phone services were cut off.

The disconnection of the Palestinian enclave meant that — as the bombing of Gaza entered its 21st day — fresh photos, videos and other information regar­­ding brutal Israeli actions against the territory were no longer coming through.

The isolation of Gazans came as Israel’s air and ground forces stepped up operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s chief military spokesperson said on Friday, amid reports of heavy bombing of the besieged enclave.

“In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised news briefing.

He said the air force was conducting extensive strikes on tunnels and other infrastructure. “In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight,” he said.

Israeli forces have massed outside Gaza, where Israel has been conducting an intense campaign of aerial bombardment since October 7, when Hamas carried out a daring raid on Israeli territory.

But an opinion poll suggested almost half of Israelis now wanted to hold off on a ground invasion in consideration of the lives of 220 prisoners reported to be held there.

Israel has been urged by the US and Arab countries to delay an operation that would multiply the number of civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal strip and might ignite a wider conflict.

US backs ‘humanitarian pause’

In what appeared to be a change of heart, the US said on Friday that it now backs pauses in hostilities to allow aid to get into Gaza, the White House said, as Israel said it was extending ground operations.

“We would support humanitarian pauses for stuff getting in, as well as for people getting out, and that includes pushing for fuel to get in and for the restoration of electrical power,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Ten additional aid trucks have gotten into Gaza amid Israel’s aerial bombardment but more fuel is needed, he said, but refused to comment on reports that Israel was expanding its ground operations in Gaza.

The UN has been warning of an “avalanche of human suffering” in the battered Palestinian territory. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday repeated his call for “a humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the delivery of life-saving supplies”.

“Misery is growing by the minute. Without a fundamental change, the peo­ple of Gaza will face an unprecedented avalanche of human suffering,” he said.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees had earlier warned that “many more will die” in Gaza from catastrophic shortages after nearly three weeks of bombardment by Israel.

The UN human rights office also raised the alarm over “war crimes” being committed.

Gaza falls silent

On Friday, Palestinian mobile phone service provider Jawwal said that services including phone and internet had been cut by heavy bombardment.

A statement from the Palestine Red Crescent Society said it had completely lost contact with its operations room in Gaza and all its teams operating on the ground.

In addition, online watchdog Netblocks said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that it had witnessed “a collapse in connectivity in the Gaza Strip with high impact to Paltel, amid reports of heavy bombardment; the company is the last remaining major operator to supply service as connectivity declines”.

Meanwhile, Hamas called on the world to “act immediately” Friday to stop Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, as intense strikes pounded the Palestinian territory.

“We call on the Arab and Muslim countries and the international community to take responsibility and act immediately to stop the crimes and series of massacres against our people,” the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, nearly 29,000 Lebanese civilians have fled communities near the border with Israel because of deadly artillery exchanges between Hezbollah fighters and the Israeli army,.

A total of 28,965 Lebanese have fled their homes, a UN agency said on Friday.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2023


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