Israel-Hamas war: Communications blackout in Gaza as Hamas military system may be destroyed soon  

There was a communications blackout in Gaza City on Thursday as two major telecom companies had run out of fuel. The companies said that all their services were affected as energy supplies were down.  

Communications blackout in Gaza 

There was no word from either Paltel or Jawwal, the telecom companies, whose internet, mobile phone services and landline networks remained inoperable. Israel has refused fuel imports to Gaza saying that Hamas could use them for military purposes. 

With communications blackout and not a trace of fuel, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it was difficult to arrange humanitarian aid truck convoys. 

The UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said, “If the fuel does not come in, people will start to die because of the lack of fuel. Exactly as from when, I don’t know. But it will be sooner rather than later.”  

Tunnel shaft discovered near Al Shifa Hospital 

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers have discovered a tunnel shaft used by Hamas militants at Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital, the army said. The U.N. was concerned that no aid would be delivered to Palestinians on Friday via the Rafah crossing with Egypt. 

The army released a video it said showed a tunnel entrance in an outside area of Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s biggest hospital. 

The video, which Reuters couldn’t immediately confirm, showed a deep hole in the ground, covered with concrete, wood rubble and sand. It seemed the area had been excavated; a bulldozer was also seen in the background.  

Israel’s military claims weapons found in the hospital 

The military said its soldiers likewise found a vehicle in the hospital containing weapons. 

Hamas said in a statement late on Thursday that claims by the Pentagon and U.S. State Department that the group uses Al Shifa for military purposes is a repetition of an outrightly misleading story “demonstrated by the weak and ridiculous performances of the occupation army spokesman.” 

The U.S. is sure about an evaluation from its own intelligence agencies on Hamas exercises in Al Shifa hospital and will not share any details about it, White House representative John Kirby said on Thursday. 

Palestinian civilians were at the receiving end of Israel’s weeks-long military operation in retaliation of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants that Israel said killed 1,200 people, most of them being civilians. 

Gaza health officials considered dependable by the United Nations said somewhere around 11,500 people have been confirmed to have been killed in an Israeli bombardment and ground attack — more than 4,700 of them being children. 

Benjamin Netanyahu blames Hamas for civilian casualties  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in a television interview on U.S.’ CBS News on Thursday accused the Hamas of preventing civilians from moving to safer locations when he was questioned whether Israel’s killing of thousands of Palestinians would fuel hatred in a new generation. He added that the nation’s attempts to minimise civilian casualties were “not successful”. 

“Any civilian death is a tragedy. And we shouldn’t have any because we’re doing everything we can to get the civilians out of harm’s way, while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way,” Netanyahu remarked. 

“So we send leaflets, (we) call them on their cell phones, and we say: ‘leave’. And many have left,” he added. 

Hamas military system may be destroyed soon 

The chief of staff of Israeli military said the country was close to destroying Hamas’ military system in the northern Gaza Strip and there were signs the army was taking its campaign to other parts of the enclave inhabited by 2.3 million people. 

Israel distributed pamphlets asking civilians to leave four towns in southern Gaza, areas Gazans had been previously told would be safe. 

Israeli authorities said Hamas kept some of the 240 hostages taken by gunmen on Oct. 7 in the hospital complex. The body of a woman hostage was recovered by troops in a building close to Al Shifa on Thursday, the military said. 

Military equipment including Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were likewise found in the building, it added. 

International agencies call for protection of civilians 

EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell urged Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza. Besides, Human Rights Watch said hospitals have special protections under international humanitarian law. 

The watchdog’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau said, “hospitals only lose those protections if it can be shown that harmful acts have been carried out from the premises.” 

However, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Hamas was at fault not just for the Oct. 7 attack on his country but also for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. 

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