DEIR AL-BALAH (GAZA STRIP):
Gaza lost communications Sunday in its third total outage of the Israel-Hamas war, while Israel’s military said it encircled Gaza City and divided the besieged coastal strip into two.
“Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters, calling it a “significant stage” in Israel’s war against the Hamas group ruling the enclave. Israeli media reported troops were expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours. Strong explosions were seen in northern Gaza after nightfall.
The “collapse in connectivity” across Gaza, reported by internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and confirmed by Palestinian telecom company Paltel, made it even more complicated to convey details of the new stage of the military offensive.
“We have lost communication with the vast majority of the UNRWA team members,” U.N. Palestinian refugee agency spokesperson Juliette Touma told The Associated Press. The first Gaza outage lasted 36 hours and the second one for a few hours.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli warplanes struck two refugee camps, killing at least 53 people and wounding dozens in central Gaza, the zone where Israel’s military had urged Palestinian civilians to seek refuge, health officials said. Israel said it would press on with its offensive to crush Hamas, despite U.S. appeals for even brief pauses to get aid to desperate civilians.
Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in nearly a month of war in Gaza, more than 4,000 of them children and minors. That toll likely will rise as Israeli troops advance into dense, urban neighborhoods.
Airstrikes hit the Maghazi refugee camp, killing at least 40 people and wounding 34 others, the Health Ministry said. An AP reporter at a nearby hospital saw eight dead children, including a baby, brought in after the strike. A surviving child was led down the corridor, her clothes caked in dust.
Arafat Abu Mashaia, who lives in the camp, said the Israeli airstrike flattened several multistory homes where people forced out of other parts of Gaza were sheltering.
“It was a true massacre,” he said. “All here are peaceful people. I challenge anyone who says there were resistance (fighters) here.”
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Another airstrike hit a house near a school at the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. Staff at Al-Aqsa Hospital told the AP at least 13 people were killed. The camp was struck on Thursday as well.