RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Communications systems in the Gaza Strip were down for a second day Friday with no fuel to power the internet and phone networks, causing aid agencies to halt cross-border deliveries of humanitarian supplies even as they warned people may soon face starvation.
Israel has been pushing deeper into Gaza City, and its troops have been searching Gaza’s biggest hospital, Shifa, for traces of a Hamas command center the military alleges was located under the building. They have shown what they said were a tunnel entrance and weapons found in a truck inside the compound but not yet any evidence of the command center, which Hamas and Shifa staff deny existed. The war, now in its sixth week, was triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, in which the militants killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured some 240 men, women and children. Gaza is now receiving only 10% of its needed food supplies daily, and dehydration and malnutrition are growing with nearly all of the 2.3 million people in the territory needing food, said Abeer Etefa, a Mideast regional spokeswoman for the United Nations’ World Food Program. “People are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” she said from Cairo.
With few trucks entering Gaza and no fuel to distribute the food “there is no way to meet the current hunger needs,” she said Thursday.
“The existing food systems in Gaza are basically collapsing.”
The breakdown of the communications network, which is crucial for coordinating aid deliveries, meant a further worsening of the situation. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said no aid deliveries would be able to enter southern Gaza from Egypt on Friday. “We have seen fuel and food and water and humanitarian assistance being used as a weapon of war,” said agency spokeswoman Juliette Touma.
Fuel is needed for generators that run emergency communication systems, hospitals, desalination plants and other critical infrastructure in Gaza.
Israel has barred fuel shipments into Gaza since the beginning of the war, but permitted a limited shipment to UNRWA earlier this week for trucks delivering food after the agency’s fuel reservoir ran dry.
Touma said that is “outrageous that humanitarian agencies are reduced to begging for fuel.” Following the surprise attack by Hamas, Israel responded with a weekslong air campaign and a ground invasion of northern Gaza, vowing to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities. On Friday, the military said it had found the body of another hostage taken by Hamas, identifying her as a soldier, Cpl. Noa Marciano. Like the body of another hostage found Thursday, 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss, Marciano’s corpse was recovered in a building adjacent to Shifa, the military said.
Four hostages taken in the initial Hamas attack have now been confirmed dead, while four others have been freed and one rescued.
More than 11,470 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The official count does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.